Guest blog by Mary Juetten, Founder and CEO of Traklight
In the world of clean technology innovation, how to protect your technology is a key issues that can make or break your success. While many companies are driven to be “first to market” in their industry or use, it’s important to take time to ensure that – before you leap forward — your intellectual property (IP) is protected.
Here are three top tips for protecting your IP:
Get started early. Given how prevalent patents are in the industry, it’s important to be on top of your innovation and understand what you have. It’s important for early-stage companies to identify their IP and craft a strategy on handling and protecting it before making any disclosures to the public. Saying too much in a public forum could jeopardize your ability to patent your creation in the future, especially internationally, because provisional patents or patents filed with the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) only cover your invention or design within the United States.
Therefore, if you are raising funds using an international funding platform, including a crowdfunding site such as Indiegogo or Kickstarter, you must consider patents before you launch your campaign. Otherwise, in some cases merely disclosing the invention can prevent you from patenting outside the U.S.
Don’t forget your creative assets. Sure, technology and the patents that go with it are going to be the first thing any clean tech company focuses on. But your brand name is how consumers are going to identify your product in a crowded marketplace, and having a good name is crucial to building brand awareness. When looking to protect your IP, make sure you’re protecting your brand name, including logos and slogans, because these are intellectual property “assets” too.
Unfortunately it’s not as simple as just filing with the USPTO for trademark protection. There are renewals and filings that need attention over the years in order for your assets to continue to be protected, so seek professional advice to make sure you do not miss deadlines. In addition, you have to police the use of your brand as your company grows.
Double-secret innovation. What differentiates a trade secret from other forms of IP is that the protection does not occur by registration with the USPTO. Rather, it’s all about keeping it a secret. As such, you should take every measure to make sure that trade secrets are only known by those who need to know.
Trade secret law differs state to state but the overall principles are similar. Best practices include restricting access and the number of people who know them. Employment contracts and contractor agreements should also cover areas such as trade secrets and penalties for disclosure. Don’t forget to educate your employees about IP, particularly trade secrets and make sure exit interviews remind people to leave the IP with your company, in all formats!
Mary Juetten is Founder and CEO of Traklight, “a simple and affordable way to identify, manage, and protect valuable intangible assets including intellectual property.”
For more about IP, visit www.traklight.com and their partner Rocket Lawyer, to access a software platform that identifies your legal risk and uncovers your potential IP for free: http://info.traklight.com/rocketlawyer