Importance of IP For Start-ups and Entrepreneurs(Part IX): IP Risk Clearance Checklist

Clearing IP Risks is very important before starting a business. A mistake with respect to this can kill a start-up.

Some basic IP clearance steps to be taken by all start-ups and entrepreneurs are:

Patent Risk Clearance

  • Check if your business idea is the subject of any IP/Patent protection by another person or entity.
  • Perform a patent search to check if any patents cover any aspect of your business.
  • If your business or technology falls within the scope of any patent, perform a risk analysis.
  • Look for strategies to design around, and if no such strategies exist, acquire a license or drop the business idea.
  • Avoid using any patented technology without prior permission or license.

Trade Mark Risk Clearance

  • Perform a search to check if the trade mark you have chosen for your business is being used by any one, or is proposed to be used by anyone.
  • Conduct a trade mark search in government databases to identify if any one holds rights with respect to the trade mark.
  • If any business is using the trade mark, or if any person holds trademark rights, drop the trademark, and go for another one.
  • Ensure that the logo designer signs an agreement to transfer IP rights in the logo designs or mark designs to the start-up. Take indemnity for any third party IP usage in the designs, and risks therefrom.
  • Educate the designer about the importance of avoiding violation of trade mark rights through copying designs, imitating, etc.
  • Register domain names with respect to your trade mark. For example, for BananaIP. It is better to avoid a mark if someone else is using the domain name for your mark.

Copyright Risk Clearance

  • Avoid copying, or imitating websites of competitors.
  • Sign agreements to transfer IP rights to the start-up with an indemnity clause for losses coming from copying others’ content/designs.
  • Educate your web developer/designer about the importance of avoiding copying of third party content or designs.
  • Incorporate a well defined set of terms and conditions, and take down policy.
  • Take extra care while using third party content, user generated content, etc. Note that something that is accessible on the internet is not free for use.

Trade Secret Risk Clearance

  • Do not use trade secrets or confidential information of a competitor, directly or indirectly. Get a risk clearance opinion before embarking on third party information usage.
  • Do not hire employees, who come with trade secrets and confidential information of a competitor.
  • Execute employment agreements with strong confidentiality clauses.
  • Mark all your materials – PPTS, proposals, business plans, etc, with confidentiality notices.