IP and Startups

Significance of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Protection for Start-ups

Do you have a Start-up? If yes, then the unfolding of that start-up to a successful venture will be quite adventurous. The founders of start-ups are the small entrepreneurs who have emerged from a tiny idea and aim to bring it in the form of a big company. While the basic essentials for anyone to start a company would include capital investment, land, labour, and management. But to survive against the giants in the industry, the vital key role is sliding to the field of Intellectual Property Rights.

For a start-up the IP Rights might not have much significance as on the day when they start the work, but eventually make intellectual assets in course of trade. Like the well-known proverb says, “Prevention is better than cure”, most IPR laws promote this for the reasons recognized.

The risk factor of similar competitors pouncing upon your ideas is higher as the company is still in its initial stage or it is too early to be aware of the thefts. Thus, it is significant to be prepared for unanticipated threats.

The patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets are the eminent IPRs that should be protected by any start-up. The necessity and the advantage of securing each kind of IPR for a start-up can be known in further parts of this article.


The patents are the exclusive rights to an invention, a product, or a process that delivers a new way of doing something, or gives a new technical solution to problem. To gain the patent rights one must publish about the invention in public through a patent application.

Now, the start-ups’ core strength lies in the idea they possess and thus it must be maintained in secrecy until it ready to be in public exposure. Once the idea is out, there are several competitors who do not think twice about implementing the idea and make a commercial benefit out of it.

The pros of any start-up in approaching for the patent can be:

  • It secures the ownership of the invention
  • It interests legal security
  • It attracts investors, which increases the capital.
  • Patent registration creates a huge brand value attached to the company.

These key points are the resource for the growth of the company in its early period of progress. Like for a child, its rights are protected from the time it is in the womb, in a similar way the company needs to be protected right from its birth for a secured tomorrow.


The trademarks are the signs which are capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one company from those of other enterprises. All the Start-ups use a trade name, brand, logo, advertisements, designs, products, or a website which are nothing but intellectual properties. These marks are a representation of the company and are to be protected by way of registration.

The additional advantages gained by registering trademarks include:

  • The burden of proof is diminished.
  • To ensure no one else is using a similar trade name.
  • The rights of exclusivity.
  • The trademark provides protection and the right to legal action against infringement.
  • A trademark is an asset of the company.

Start-ups require a lot of promotions for the potential growth and success of the business. The investors lookup an attractive trademark that would appeal the customers to go for the brand. Thus, a registered trademark would add to the reputational value of the start-up.

Having contrary, similar, deceptive, or confusing trademarks will lead to the closure of a start-up even before it takes off. Registration ensures that these hurdles are crossed and the start-up has a unique trademark.


The novel component or idea of a start-up is primarily exposed when the start-up is entering the market. Copyright protection is granted towards the original works of authorship which includes literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic work such as novels, poetry, movies, cinematography, choreography, songs, computer software, architecture and so on.

Though there is no protection available for the facts, idea, or methods and procedures, the copyright can be safeguarded if it is in the expressed form. It helps copyright holder with exclusive rights to modify, perform, display, distribute, and copy the work.

For a Start-up, the copyrightable items will include strategy planning, product designing, advertisements, instruction of product use, website design, software codes etc.

It can be looked upon how this can impact the start-ups if they are to register their copyright work:

  • The right to reproduce the work.
  • The right to reissue copies of their work to the public.
  • Right to make any translations and make any adaptations.
  • Restrain from deformation or modifications and protect the original form of work.
  • Copyright is cost-friendly with long-term protection.

There are high-risk factors for start-ups especially because creative ideas are hard to develop but easy to steal, therefore, it is a crucial time for a start-up to look after its assets.

Trade secrets:

A company to progress it has to timely change its planning and strategies. These planning are often kept secret or undisclosed for the commercial benefit of the company. To overcome the threat of disclosure of such top-notch information from the company, NDA (Non-disclosure Agreements) are made.

For start-ups, the non-disclosure agreements are necessary for keeping the information secret because-

  • The information is a commercially valuable asset for the future.
  • Information leaked will cost a huge price.
  • The novelty is lost.
  • Trade secrets protect abstract ideas.
  • Seeking protection is cheap and easily obtained.

Trade secrets have no time limitation for its protection. It can be converted gradually from a trade secret to any other form of intellectual property, thus promotes flexibility to a start-up.

These collective IPRs can be effective when one can sell/ license for creating the additional revenue stream for the start-up.

Author: Sneha V K

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