What leading entrepreneurs need to know to safeguard innovation
Great businesses are built on big ideas. Coming up with something new is only step one, however. As a partner and intellectual property lawyer at boutique IP firm Oyen Wiggs, Jennifer Marles understands the many pitfalls that entrepreneurs must navigate to bring their product to market. Often, in the early stages, entrepreneurs are reluctant to assume the expense of safeguarding their IP because they are on a limited budget. “Getting foundational legal advice about how to best protect your IP doesn’t need to involve expensive fees, but it can mean everything to the future of your enterprise,” Marles observes.
Marles shares five common IP mistakes that top entrepreneurs avoid:
1. Telling everyone about your idea before you’ve secured the IP.
An invention is only as valuable as it is novel. If you share your idea at tradeshows or with potential partners or investors before filing for appropriate IP protection, you risk the possibility of someone in your industry stealing your idea and losing your right to obtain a valid patent.
2. Not seeking legal advice during the early stages.
A lawyer who specializes in IP rights can walk you through the steps needed to protect your idea, while also advising you on what type of IP you should consider. You might think you need a patent, which is extremely expensive, when you may only require a trademark or design registration. Trademark or design protection can generally be secured at a significantly lower cost.
3. Believing everything you read on the Internet.
Much of what is on the Internet relates to U.S. law. There are several differences between Canadian and U.S. IP laws, particularly in the copyright area. By simply trusting what you read online, you may be relying on information that is not correct or guidance that is not applicable in Canada.
4. Thinking that having a patent will make your business successful.
Just because you have a patent doesn’t mean investors will be knocking on your door, or that your business will be successful. Securing a patent is only one of many steps in bringing a product to market and building a thriving enterprise. So secure the IP, but be prepared for the hard work of building a business.
5. Not keeping IP counsel advised of changes in the product.
Products often change over the course of development. If you shift the focus of your product development so that the product changes, keep your IP counsel informed so they can consider how best to protect your modifications.
Your ideas are valuable—they spark new opportunities for your business and generate new products for your customers. As Marles notes: “You may only get one attempt at protecting your IP so it’s worth making sure you take your best swing.”