Protecting your IP is not necessarily the first thing on your mind when you’re launching your business idea. Raising finance is often a more pressing priority, and understandably so, but decisions, or the lack of them, relating to your IP in the early stage of your startup can have serious long-term consequences.

The four IP categories

IP falls into four categories:

  • Trademarks
  • Patents
  • Copyright
  • Designs

All of these IP rights can be registered both in Ireland and overseas.

Trademarks are defined as any sign or identifying mark of a company’s goods and services. A company’s name and the different names of their product lines can all be considered to be trademarks. It’s a sign for customers of a brand’s origins and is an indicator of quality. The brand awareness generated by a trade mark is one of the reasons why founders should ensure they register their trademarks.

Patents provide protection for new inventions that can be used industrially. The Patents Office issues ownership over the invention to the person registering the patent. We advise inventors to be discreet about their invention until they speak to a legal professional specialising in IP about protecting their work. Patents can be registered for different terms.

Copyright protects mainly art, music, literature and software. Patent protection however should also be considered for software.

Designs protect branding marks, such as logos and graphics.

How do I register my IP rights?

When you register your trademarks, you need to remember that they will only be registered in the territory where the registration takes place. It’s important to think about all the markets you wish to register your IP in at the early stage of your startup so that you can implement a holistic IP protection strategy. Registering your IP across various territories can be done through systems like European Patents and Community Trade Marks in Europe.

Registering your IP is a tax efficient thing to do

Few business owners realise that there is a tax deduction available for registering a patent or trademark. Business owners involved in scientific research and development are able to avail of additional tax incentives.

Setting up your startup and creating a shareholders agreement are the first priorities to focus on at the beginning of your business journey. However, protecting your IP needs to be considered early on too as, especially for tech startups, funding will be raised mainly on the strength of your IP. Some investors will insist that you have sufficient IP protection in place.

Contractors and their work

With the freelance or gig economy heavily present in the world of startups, it’s important to work out with an IP legal professional who owns the work created by contractors for your startup. Often, the work created by an employee is the property of the business, but this isn’t always the case. There may be a requirement for you to insert a clause dealing with this issue in the employment contract.

Your company name is IP!

Don’t forget that your company name is part of your IP and it’s important for you to register it as a trademark. Incorporating the company with its name doesn’t grant IP protection to it.

Our contract law legal team advise extensively on all aspects of IP. We work closely with entrepreneurs to build the legal framework required to help your business thrive. Contact us with your IP requirements, we’ll be delighted to speak with you.  

27 April 2017

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