Founders of startup companies often focus more on getting their new products out ahead of the competition than on taking care of their intellectual property, an effort that should be top priority.
What safeguards should be in place to ensure the protection of your intellectual property?
Stakeholders may develop innovative products or services before your company is up and running. The intellectual property rights belong to the individuals who created those products or services, and it is important to use a written agreement to transfer the IP rights to the company. In return for this transfer, you might consider offering either cash or shares of stock in the business.
If any of your consultants or independent contractors develop intellectual property for the business, they should execute an agreement that clearly states their obligation to sign over the IP to the company. The agreement should also state that the confidential information is solely for the company’s use and benefit.
Just as consultants and independent contractors have an obligation to sign a confidentiality agreement, so do your employees. Also called a non-disclosure agreement, this document allows someone who holds confidential information to share it with a third party, who is then under contract to not share it with anyone else. There are exceptions to this; for example, information that is already in the public domain. In general, however, a confidentiality agreement will do the job of protecting your intellectual property.