A Start-Up’s Guide to Intellectual Property

i Intellectual PropertySo far, in our A-Z Guide to Starting a Business, we’ve looked at topics including bookkeeping, data backup, and funding. With so much to cover, it’s no surprise that intellectual property (IP) sometimes takes a back seat when setting up. 

The World Intellectual Property Organisation describe IP as the “creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce.”

In this blog, Phil Coldrick from IP Scope, provides us with an overview to IP as well as describing what IP needs to be considered when starting a business…

Q: What IP should I be considering when I start a business?

A: Typical things to consider include your business name – your name and brand is a valuable asset to your business so think about protecting it by registering it as a trade mark. Remember, if you have registered your company name with Companies House this does not mean you are protected. Someone else could still use it.

Other IP aspects include copyright for your website and any other promotional literature you create. Copyright is automatic but beware of who owns the copyright when a third party is involved such as a website designer. You might want to consider having the copyright assigned to you through any contract you arrange with them.

Q: How can I determine if my business needs IP protection?

A: The UK Intellectual Property Office provides a free IP Healthcheck service that takes you through a series of questions to determine how to safeguard your IP assets and provides a confidential report with recommendations for next steps. http://www.ipo.gov.uk/whyuse/business/iphealthcheck.htm

Q: I have an idea, but don’t want to tell anyone in case they steal it. What can I do?

A: It is important that you do not make your idea public before you apply for IP Rights, if you do, you run the risk that you may not be able to patent an invention or protect your design because it is invalidated by the public disclosure. However, that does not mean that you must never discuss your idea with anyone else. Conversations with qualified (registered) lawyers, solicitors and patent attorneys are legally privileged and therefore in confidence. If you need to discuss your idea with someone else before you apply for an IP Right – such as a patent adviser or consultant then a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) can help. NDAs are also known as confidentiality agreements and confidentiality-disclosure agreements (CDA). An explanation on setting up NDAs (including templates) can be found at http://www.ipo.gov.uk/nda.pdf

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For more information, email info@cambridgebusinesslounge.com or tweet @CamBizLounge.

 

The Art of Small Business Collaboration

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Collaboration comes from the Latin “colaborare” meaning “to labour together.” In business, it is the action of working with a group or an individual, to produce something and achieve a common goal, which would never have been achieved without that  co-operation. It’s the process of pooling knowledge, resources and relationships for the sake of pursuing shared aims, where everyone shares the reward or loss of the venture.

Bringing people and businesses together and then igniting and nurturing a collaborative effort, is something we proactively support at Cambridge Business Lounge. The opportunity for a start-up to create something fantastically new with the support of others, can speed up the process of any start-up to find their feet. As well as perfectly compliment their existing services or products.

Here are a few examples of to demonstrate how it worked for others…

Victoria Arnold, Desk Union:

We were keen to collaborate with another start-up, Desk Unions booking software, rather than buy an off the shelf package or have something developed from scratch. We identified a fellow Scottish start-up called Appointedd who had just launched an online booking software for salons and spas. Together, we co-developed Desk Union’s booking software over 3 months. The end result means an awesome affordable software for us, an opportunity for Appointedd to try white-labelling, and two happy startups. It’s a win-win! We always try to collaborate rather than reinvent the wheel.

Ann Hawkins, Business Advisor, Consultant and Mentor:

Locally, Patients Know Best is about five years old. Patients are put in control of their medical records; collaboration happens between patients, clinicians, researchers, charities, the NHS and pharma companies.

Local Motors is about six years old. They bring together global communities of designers, engineers, fabricators and automotive enthusiasts to solve local problems, locally.

Lego was failing badly in 2008 when it started collaborating with Japanese company Cuusoo to create a completely new business model.

Ann Hawkins and I are also good example of this. We’re both business mentors and although we target a different audience, there is some cross-over. So, do we steer clear of each other? Split Cambridgeshire in half? No, we decided to jointly host networking events and write a book to be published in January 2015, entitled “New Business: Next Steps. The All-in-one Guide to Managing, Marketing and Growing your Small Business”

What about you?

What skill, knowledge or resource could you add to another business, or a business bring to you, to produce a whole new offering? For example, instead of author commissioning an artist to illustrate their book, how about an artist and a writer coming together to create a graphic novel?

Can you see any collaborative opportunities that you’d like to seek out? Don’t worry if the answer is no, as many ideas are born out of ‘water cooler moments’ and just simply meeting businesses in the same situation as you can sow the seeds of new opportunities.

Collaboration is a powerful way to accomplish what no single organisation can on its own. It can also be a complex beast. Once you have found the right idea and partner, formulate what both parties bring to the project, what the shares and spoils are, and put it in writing. You’ll be glad you did if something did go amiss.

Now you need to find those potential partners. Try seeking these businesses and people out at your local coworking space, networking group or even good old social media. And once you have embarked on the exciting new journey of collaborative working, email your story to info@cambridgebusinesslounge.com or @CamBizLounge