What Startups Should Know About the Basics of IP Strategy and Protection

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“Opportunities multiply as they are seized.”

Sun Tzu (6 BC), The Art of War

If you’re managing a startup, this blog is for you. In this three-part blog series, we will discuss the crucial role of having an effective IP strategy for tech-driven startups with our partner, Bereskin and Parr, a leading Canadian full-service intellectual property law firm serving clients across all industries around the world. But before diving into more complicated areas of IP strategy, let’s first understand the meaning of intellectual property and its different forms.

WHAT DOES INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY MEAN?

The World Intellectual Property Office defines Intellectual Property (IP) as “creations of the mind such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names, and images used in commerce. IP is protected in law by, for example, copyright, trademarks, and patents, which enable people to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they invent or create. By striking the right balance between the interests of innovators and the wider public interest, the IP system aims to foster an environment in which creativity and innovation can flourish1.”

Intellectual property (IP) is something intangible created by human intellect 2. In a nutshell, anyone creating an invention from an idea or artistic work will automatically own the copyright and be able to register their work as a trademark, design right, patent or other forms of IP. Creators and inventors will be recognized for their intellectual property and earn. Looking at the bigger picture, intellectual property is one of the drivers of socioeconomic growth, allowing inventors and creators to innovate, which can edge out competitors in a marketplace leading to revenue streams or improving market reputation. 

WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY?

Intellectual property comes in different forms, and various rules apply too. It is important to understand that if measures are not taken properly, IP rights may be forfeited. 

PATENTS

If you apply for a patent, you will get an exclusive right for an invention. A patent provides the owner with the full rights to decide whether the invention can be used by others. At the same time, the patent owner gives the public technical information about the invention in the published patent document3.

TRADEMARKS

A trademark is a business identifier which can be a word, phrase, tagline, symbols or designs. This will distinguish the business from competitors4. In the US and Canada, trademarks can be seen with symbols  ™ or ®.

TRADE SECRETS

A trade secret can be any manufacturing process, formula, ingredients, method of doing business, or technical knowledge. A trade secret serves as leverage to its holder and a competitive advantage against the competitors. 

COPYRIGHT

Copyright is a legal right to protect original works of authorship in a tangible asset. Examples of copyrighted works include musical compositions, dramatic, movies, pictures, paintings, computer programs, databases, advertisements and technical drawings5.

WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE OF AN IP STRATEGY?

In our conversation with Joanna Ma, a technology lawyer at Bereskin and Parr, she explained that:

IP strategy is a plan created to acquire and leverage a company’s IP assets consistent with the company’s business goals and objectives. An IP strategy plan usually focuses on understanding and identifying the IP being created within the company and obtaining protection for those creations. Such IP protection may be focused on a single IP asset or a combination of different IP assets (including patents, trademarks, copyright, or industrial designs). IP strategy plans may also be created to encourage startups to perform internal audits and portfolio assessments to understand the strength of their IP rights and their position in the marketplace. IP strategy plans can also be used for competitive intelligence to determine the IP rights of competitors. This information can be used to reduce risks of infringement of IP rights of others as well as to focus the company’s own R&D efforts on areas where patents or designs have not been filed. IP strategy plans can be offensive, defensive, or otherwise strategic and usually evolve with the evolving business needs.” 

Defining an effective IP strategy for a startup depends on many factors, such as the industry sector, startup resources, technology lifecycle, and market environment. Crafting an IP strategy and management plan should be aligned with the company’s general strategy. In conclusion, startups need to meticulously plan their IP strategies combined with sound and carefully laid-out business plans, which will require technology leaders who understand the needs of the business and the technological landscape in the industry you’re operating. 

In our next blog, we will detail how to develop an IP strategy with Joanna Ma, a technology lawyer at Bereskin & Parr LLP. Stay tuned! 

how can nubinary help?

Our fractional CTO services can help define your company’s IP strategy, from aligning it to your business strategy and development within the industry to allocating the right resources to achieve an effective and investable IP plan. We also assist in identifying new IP and improve on the strength of it, and as we lead on tech development overall process and the evolution of the proprietary aspects of your core technology.  With our close partnership with Bereskin and Parr, we will bring together relevant technology, business inputs, and legal perspectives with an understanding of the competitive landscape and market environment you operate in.  

B&P OVERVIEW:

Bereskin & Parr LLP is a leading Canadian full-service intellectual property law firm serving clients across all industries around the world. Founded in 1965, the firm has grown to be one of the largest IP firms in Canada, with offices located in major economic and technology centers. Bereskin & Parr is made up of more than 80 lawyers and patent and trademark agents, many of whom are recognized as leading practitioners in their specialized fields. The firm has established a depth of legal talent and systems to service clients in every aspect of patent, trademark, and copyright law and IP litigation. Bereskin & Parr and its award-winning professionals are consistently ranked as the benchmark for IP law in Canada.

Talk to one of our CTOs today to discuss your company’s IP strategy.

REferences:

[1] World Intellectual Property Organization. https://www.wipo.int/about-ip/en/

[2] The Accelerator Center, 2021. IP Strategy for Startup Founders- What You Need to Know To Protect Your Idea. https://www.acceleratorcentre.com/resources/articles/ip-strategy-for-startup-founders-what-you-need-to-know-to-protect-your-idea

[3] World Intellectual Property Organization. https://www.wipo.int/about-ip/en/

[4,5] Gerald, B. et al. (2017). Intellectual Property and Financing Strategies for Technology Startups. Springer International Publishing AG 2017. https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/978-3-319-49217-9.pdf 

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