The Intellectual Property Of StartUps Part 1

Hi there!

All creative endeavours stem from ideas! All sorts of ideas ,great, fantastic, out of the world, silly, seemingly foolish and outright ridiculous!! Just the way startups are! In fact startups are the culmination of the journey of ideas which emanate from creative, fertile minds and the intellect. And it is this “creation and creativity”, which is actually the genesis of all “intellectual property and everything else related to it”.
It then behoves on the entrepreneur to protect that intellectual property created by him and what is rightfully his, with the help of laws.

That, in a nutshell, is the crux of Intellectual Property (IP) and its rights. (IPR). (Historically, these rights and laws were floated centuries back, with the intention of providing an incentive to individuals to continue being creative.)

Legal and business literature like books, journals, blogs and reports, are replete with detailed writings on IP, IPR and the laws related to that, by experts in that domain. To attempt to write on this vast topic, with its finer nuances, on this forum, meant for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs in-the-making, would be unthinkable.
Primarily then, I can but, only, provide, a glimpse of that world, which could be relevant to them. On a practical level, one can deal with it in two sections, the first one dealing with what constitutes IP and the following one dealing with how IP can be protected.
IP is property that can be sold, licensed, damaged or trespassed upon. It would be worthwhile, at this juncture, to take a quick look at what the types of IP encompass and the approximate costs of the same in India.

These consist of trademarks for goods and service marks for services, and pertain to logos, slogans, designs, names, domain names for online businesses, symbols, words, titles and phrases which identify the origin of goods. Registration of trademark is not compulsory but doing so makes it easier for the startup to recoup, in case of infringement by rivals. In business parlance it means protecting your brand. This usually costs Rs.6000 upwards and an upwards of 18 months for it to be granted. Trademarks are granted for a period of 10 years and need to be renewed every 10 years.

Patents are exclusive rights granted to inventors by the government, which bars others from using their inventions in different ways, for a certain period of time (usually 20 years). Patent fees excluding attorney fees is mandatory to the tune of Rs. 3500 upwards while taking an average of 5 years for it to be granted. Patents need to be renewed annually or total fees can be paid according to the schedule provided.

Copyright is protection provided to the authors of original works of authorship in which the form of expression of a content, rather than the content itself is protected. These include works of literature, music, art, like photos, drawings, songs, tunes, performing arts, books etc. Granting of copyright is immediate and lasts for the life of the creator plus another 70 years, and costs Rs. 500 upwards for different categories.

Geographical Indications (GI) of goods are those which belong of to a particular country or to a place situated therein and is an assurance of that distinctive quality which comes from that place of origin of goods. Eg. Kanchipuram saris. Fees are paid according to the prescribed fee structure.

Apart from the above category of products/services, it’s important for startups to know and understand the meaning of intangible assets of their company as 80% of the value of the business lies in these. A majority of people are completely unaware of the presence and value of these assets which comprise of know-how, expertise, knowledge that highly qualified employees have, work and life experience, de novo ideas created specifically for the business by a think-tank to give the company an edge over its competitors, goodwill and reputation, technical drawings, recipes, software programs developed by employees, formulas, written trade secrets and contracts.

These assets are not eligible for filing for patents and copyrights, and do not have value outside the company but tremendously enhance the value of the company.

Having now become familiar with the various facets of IP, we move onto the next section of how best one can protect the same.
Have a great time ahead!