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5 Ways how startups mishandle their IP (that can lead to losing millions)

5 ways how startups make errors with their IP

IP stands for Intellectual Property and that’s one of the most important assets of a startup. In fact, in the beginning, this is sometimes the only real asset startups have. Not knowing how to handle your IP can lead to losing it and entail expensive legal battles.

First, there are different types of IP and they should be protected differently. There are patents, trademarks, design patents (industrial designs), copyrights, plant varieties, and trade secrets.

Innovations and Intellectual Property

❌ 1. Allowing someone to publish your industrial design before you applied for it.

This might happen if the designer helping you with the visualization is too eager to add it to his or her portfolio or if you want to show others how cool the product will look.

If this happens, it will make your design unprotectable in some countries and allow your competitors to challenge it in others. The design must be absolutely new to be registered and if it is published anywhere it will lose novelty.

There is something called a grace period, but it’s not in place in all countries, for example in Australia it was implemented only in 2022. The grace period is a period before your design application date (usually 6-12 months) and any design images published within this period should not affect the registrability of your design patent. But, as we mentioned it exists only in some countries and the ideal solution is not to disclose your design until you file it.

Always make sure that anyone having access to your unprotected design understands that he or she absolutely can’t publish it anywhere.

❌ 2. Disclosing the invention you want to patent.

This is the worst that can happen to your patent. Period. If you disclose your invention, your invention will lose its novelty and your patent will become unregistrable. This is irreversible and final, there is no grace period or anything to avoid this. Never share details of your invention with anyone before you sign a non-disclosure agreement. 

❌ 3. Thinking that your trademark is unique.

We heard this so many times. “My trademark is unique”. “We are not like X, we do different things”. “No one would try to steal my trademark”. You might be right, or you might be wrong.

And if you are wrong, everything will go sideways. Legal disputes are not the most attractive thing for investors and changing an adapted brand name can be very expensive. We recommend checking if your brand is a) unique and b) registrable in the countries of your interest. 

❌ 4. Not securing foreign markets

All types of IP are territorial (except copyrights to some extent). A trademark in the US will not cover Japan, China, the UK, or any other country. The same applies to patents and industrial designs. If you don’t register your IP there then it’s free for anyone to use. Of course, some countries are first to file and others are first to use and you can enjoy certain common law rights in the latter countries, but in any case, things can go wrong pretty quickly.

❌ 5. Spending too much

While trademarks, patents, and copyrights are important, spending too much to register marks in classes you won’t need or in countries you are not going to cover. While it is tempting to hoard more IP, spending too much too early will be not only wasteful but might lead to losing it in the long run. Remember, trademarks are “use it or lose it”, if you don’t use a mark in 3-5 years, anyone might cancel it, additionally maintaining a patent portfolio requires regular payments.

If you are interested in protecting your Intellectual Property, contact at [email protected]. We helped hundreds of startups just like yours to protect their trademarks and design patents all over the world. We specialize in protecting your innovations internationally and follow a complete price transparency rule. 

Bonamark is one of the top trademark solicitors offering trademark registration services for innovators in all countries and territories. We can help you protect your IP literally everywhere. 

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