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6 Major Startup IP Mistakes

Mihir Gandhi

Intellectual property, or IP, is commonly misunderstood and underestimated. Anything that is a “creation of the mind” might qualify as IP. See if you can find yourself in these 5 major IP mistakes many startups make.

1. Under-estimating the Value of Knowledge to Launch the Startup

Literature, music, and scientific discovery are examples of IP, as are designs, symbols, words and phrases, industrial design, and trade secrets. So if you’ve got a great, unique idea that’s worth starting a new business venture over, it’s almost certain you’ve got IP that is worth protecting.

2. Overestimating the Value of IP

IP is well, just IP. Unless someone applies the IP to real life scenarios, the true value of the IP is never realized. Ideas are cheap; but execution is not. To achieve success, figure out a way to leverage your IP and turn it into a real company. When you show the ability to capitalize on your IP, that’s when you’ll be worth a lot.

3. Failing to pursue provisional patents early enough

If you’ve chosen a name, designed a logo, built a website and prepared product packaging, you may already be too late. You need to file patents, register and secure trademarks (yes, even to your startup’s name) before you are too visible to the public. Patents, in particular, must be filed before your product launch.

4. Not asking for help, or asking the wrong people

It’s understandable to want to give in to the temptation to save money by handling protection of your IP on your own. Resist. That is short-term thinking that could cost you everything in the long run. At the very least, consult with a lawyer specializing in IP so you get a thorough understanding of your startup’s IP landscape.

5. Not considering how geographic locations can impact IP

Patents and trademarks filed in the U.S. will only protect you in the U.S. If you have any international exposure at all, consider whether there are other global jurisdictions in which it will also make sense for you to file.

6. Believing handshakes will protect your IP

A wink and a nod are not enough. Rely on formal confidentiality agreements to protect your trade secrets. And don’t underestimate the importance of having everyone sign before you share any information. Yes, even the software coder you’re hiring overseas.

Understanding that your IP is a valuable asset is a great first step. It’s never too early to start the work of identifying exactly what IP you have. Then, with professional support, developing a strategy on its protection may make the difference between startup and star. 

A solid IP strategy can add value to your startup, especially in the eyes of potential investors. For more information on how to verify that your investors are accredited investors, go to