Intellectual Property and Your Start-Up

intellectual propertyThe idea of building a better mousetrap was a real thing in early business. Inventors worked feverishly to design better goods, tools, assemblies, machines, products, and more.

Today’s start-ups are not that much different from the past. The product or service uses electronics and software, but the principles are very much the same; build a disruptor, and you’ve built a better mousetrap. However, these days holding onto that idea matters so much more.

What Is Intellectual Property Actually?

Intellectual property involves anything created by the mind. Music, writing, artwork, programming, designs, and similar are all products of the mind and deemed legally intellectual property. That means, once defined, they can also be protected legally as well under concepts of the law better known as copyright, patent, and trademark law.

While some protections are automatic as soon as the creation is crafted, such as in copyright, others have to be registered proactively, such as patents.

Often, a start-up has more than one idea or intellectual property to protect. It might seem like a given trade secret is just the design of the product or service itself. However, in reality, copyrights and patents can include multiple components. For example, a digital service could have a copyright on the software, a copyright on how it is delivered electronically, a patent on the hardware created to run it, and a trademark on the logo representing the digital product in marketing.

That’s four different intellectual property assets in one simple digital service delivery. These combinations are known as IP portfolios. However, their parts are protected differently, and a San Francisco business lawyer can help explain.

Copyright Protections

As mentioned earlier, copyright protection is immediate. As soon as the product idea is created and recorded, it is owned. That said, the threshold of proving ownership is still high and can easily be disputed. This is why registering a copyright provides far more conclusive and definitive protection. Once filed, the creation date of ownership and registration have a powerful protection that generally lasts 75 years.


A patent is a legal protection for a design and prototype validated by the federal government. The invention itself, both in design and build, are not automatically protected ownership of creation like copyright. Instead, one has to assert that ownership by registering the invention with the government’s Patent Office.

It is a complicated review that needs to be applied for correctly. It goes through phases of documentation and examination. However, once passed and approved, the patent is awarded and becomes a powerful registered ownership of the given invention and its design plans.

No one can legally do the same without license permission. If they do, they can be sued to stop or face penalties and an injunction forcing them legally to cease operations.


Additionally, trademarks must be proactively registered to be legally owned and asserted. A company’s logo for the business or its offering can be as valuable as the company name. And in the digital world, symbols can be stolen and copied just as fast as words, graphics, and video or audio files.

Trademark protection works similarly to patents; once registered with the government, no one else can legally use the same mark, logo, or brand. Doing so means they can be sued for damages and stopped by court order.

Start-up Mistakes

Many small and micro businesses assume that registering intellectual property isn’t needed until they go to market and start selling their service or product – this is a critical mistake.

Intellectual property can be copied, stolen, and swiped in numerous ways during preparation to go to market by different players. That can include officials for lending and finance, investors, press and freelance writers, influencers, and intentional parties looking to grab trade secrets without paying for them. Early supporters and employees can also be included.

With so many possible risks, the one sure way to know an IP portfolio is protected from “walking away” is to register it properly.

Protect Your Intellectual Property with James Braden

James Braden can help with intellectual property for start-ups. As a San Francisco business attorney, he can help start-ups establish early protection that locks in ownership of valuable, essential IP portfolios.

The last thing you want as a start-up with a great idea is to lose it after sacrificing hours, time, energy, and work just to see someone else steal the idea and make a profit. James Braden has supported all types of businesses as they start and establish their market entry. Rely on his experience versus becoming another statistic of a start-up idea that could have been but never saw the light of day.