Even the most successful tech startups, businesses and massive organizations were nothing but specks of an idea first. Your ideas need to gain sufficient currency to grow into something that will make you into a pioneer in any field, and you are the only person who can take it forward with this glorious purpose. But ideas possess an inherent risk, as they are also only as good as your ability to protect them in the face of debauchery and plagiarism. So the question that we shall try to answer is how to protect your Startup idea.
Unfortunately, ideas or, in this case, tech startup ideas are arbitrary and intangible, which makes full-scale protection almost impossible. Ideas cannot be tied down or attributed to a singular source, and this significantly limits any legal and binding protection you can seek. Often, the implementers are given credit for the idea, along with their fellow enforcers and hence are the lucky ones in this scenario. Legal entities only tend to recognize copyrights and patents, and their legal protection becomes conditional on fulfilling these terms.
Keeping that in mind, we can examine a few viable methods by which you protect your tech startup idea.
1. Legal method of data protection.
This method involves classifying your intellectual property, conventionally, into four types and protecting them as –
- Patents involve protecting inventions and tangible objects, although there is a 20-year limitation, the exhaustion of which may require you to pay.
- Copyrights are for creative works such as novels, songs etc. Their expiration is close to 95 years and is conditional on what type of work it covers.
- Trademarks are used to brand and identify companies. They usually have ten-year terms of renewability.
- Trade secrets belong to the category of intellectual property that can provide a company with an edge over its competition. They are protected for an indefinite amount of time, provided they remain secret.
2. Importance of Contracts
Before you venture into something concrete with your team, something that should be a prerequisite is a binding contract. Every employee and board member should have contracts in place, drafted meticulously by an attorney.
You should never start any business with handshakes and maybes, as any contract will effectively minimize risk. So contracts should always define the limitations and the extent of your intellectual property for any person involved. The contract should also clearly explain the terms of the intellectual property being handled by the company so as no employee can modify your code and, in effect, own the variation.
You should also be aware of parallel contracts being drafted concerning partners and employers that may stifle or interfere with your company. There should positively be no legal grey areas that could hinder your company. Some examples include employees asked to sign stringently drawn up Non-Disclosure Agreements prohibiting them from divulging company project information.
3. Consider the use of Blockchains in your Tech Startup
You must understand that your intellectual property in the company is your biggest asset. Blockchains, by definition, is a type of database that stores various data in interlinked blocks. They differ from other kinds of databases in that the information stored in them is immutable, i.e. incapable of being altered at any point in time.
Suppose you use this Blockchain to store transactions and details of various ledgers within the company, such as intellectual property. In that case, it safeguards it from being altered or challenged at a later date, thus securing your ownership. Services like Patentbot and Proof of Existence can be used to register your patents or contracts right on the blockchain. This method is also far cheaper than conventional copyright registration.