One of the biggest nightmares that an entrepreneur with an innovative, industry-disrupting idea can have is plagiarism. Shockingly, startups don’t invest in protecting themselves against this possibility. A study by the Australian Bureau of Statistics finds that 67.1% of businesses (0-4 employees) do not use any intellectual property protection.
What’s even more shocking is that medium sized businesses, (a surprising 60% of them!), employing between five and 19 employees use no IP protection methods. However, even before a startup realizes its mistake and rushes to an IP lawyers, here’s a few common mistakes it needs to check for.
- Not assessing the IP’s value
A business name and even a trading history will not protect you against IP infringement. And assuming that a brand, logo, and product line will also serve as equivalents for legal protection is an even bigger mistake. No matter how small a business is, it is always generating some kind of intellectual property – which can get stolen. For example, Japanese appliance maker Kambrook invented the multiple power adaptor board, but did not patent it – now his invention is copied by many companies. The least you can do is trademark your brand, product names, slogans, logos etc in Australia, as well as product distribution. If protecting intellectual property seems too confusing, speak to an IP lawyer like Shelston IP.
- Confusing the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) registration with IP protection
You will still need a formally registered trademark in order to copyright infringement, even after you have registered with ASIC across Australia. IP protection may cost about $1,600, and 7 months, but it’s still cheaper than destroying all your marketing material because someone claimed the IP first. You’ll also be able to sue others for infringement, for damages.
- Casually leaking your idea
It is incredibly common for startup rookies to blurt out their idea to family and friends – often for their encouragement and support. However, there have been many cases of ideas making its way to a competitor Legally, a patent can be seriously compromised if you disclose your innovation to others, even if they are friends and family. The first person you need to talk to is an attorney.
- Think global
As a corollary to leaking your idea, you can also be a victim of IP infringement simply because someone in another country stole your idea after you’ve started your business, because everything is easily accessible online. Thankfully, the new Madrid Protocol, which addresses International Registration of Marks via a single international application, is applicable in 80 countries, including Australia. It’s a bit expensive ($800), for individual fees for countries and territories, but is worth it.
- Be wary of partnerships and business alliances
It can seem very exciting for a startup to be wooed by a bigger business, in the same of business expansion. However, without IP protection, many startups have seen their entire IP portfolio lost – even if they have filed patents. They will attempt to license your product and technology, and then legally wrangle you into a stiff compromise. A