Intellectual Property Checklist for Startups

There are many rules and regulations for properly managing and protecting intellectual property in the startup phase. This article is not exhaustive and is not detailed to serve as a replacement for legal advice. Contact an attorney who is fully informed of your specific circumstances.

For Patentable Innovations:

  • Have each of your employees and independent contractors sign employment or independent contractors agreements which clearly state that they are required to assign any inventions made in the course of the employment to your business. Have an attorney carefully review these documents.
  • Have your relevant customers, independent contractors, vendors, and others who may be exposed to potential invention sign Non-Disclosure Agreements to protect your confidential information. Have an attorney carefully review these documents.
  • Develop a system for identifying and tracking new ideas which could be patentable subject matter. Fully document innovations developed at your company.
  • Before making any offers for sale, participation in trade shows, submitting articles for publication, or other disclosures to the public, carefully review the subject matter for potentially patentable subject matter. If potentially patentable subject matter is found, file one or more patent applications before any public disclosure particularly if foreign patent protection may be sought.
  • Require all inventors sign documents assigning their rights to the company at the time of filing. While your employment contracts require employees to do so, disgruntled former employees may be difficult to locate and to persuade compliance of their obligations.
  • Businesses should consider having an attorney perform a prior art search, a search of patents owned by potential competitors, and or a freedom to operate search before developing new products.

For Trademark Issues

  • Perform a basic trademark search before using your proposed trade or service mark.
  • Apply for federal trademark registrations for your marks should your company participate in commerce across state lines.

This article is not meant to provide legal advice, but rather to inform.  For legal advice, please seek the advice of legal counsel who fully understands your circumstances.