When you’re launching a new business, product, or service, you have to talk to a lot of people. You may need to secure financing from investors, work with an accountant to get the books set up, design a website, and develop a marketing strategy. You may also need to contact manufacturing partners, design engineers, and other vendors to assist with the launch.
Each of these people will need to know about your new venture. They’ll need specifics before they climb on board, whether that involves learning about ideas, processes, product designs, and other trade secrets—the “secret sauce” that makes your business different from anything else on the market.
This is your intellectual property—proprietary information that will make your company, product, or service unique. Before you share this information, make sure various protections are in place.
Require everyone to sign a Nondisclosure Agreement (NDA). An NDA is a legal contract that states certain information and materials must be kept confidential. Not only does it protect your legal interests, but it conveys that you’re dedicated to protecting your company’s trade secrets.
Consider filing for one of the three major forms of intellectual property.
Just make sure your product or idea is ready to go before you file for any of these protections. For example, you wouldn’t file for a trademark when you’re still working with a designer on your logo and slogan.
Keep your trade secrets on a need-to-know basis. Coca-Cola now keeps its secret formula in a special vault after holding it in a bank for nearly 90 years. Apple keeps the features of its new products strictly confidential (or at least attempts to) until those products are publicly launched. As tempting as it may be to whisper about your incredible new product or earth-shattering idea, this can put your intellectual property at risk, especially when you’re still in the startup phase.
Before you move forward with the startup phase, develop a rough timetable for accomplishing each of these tasks, and contact Whitehouse & Cooper to help guide you through the process. Remember, your intellectual property is the lifeblood of your business. Make sure you protect it.
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