How to protect your Startup Idea? (Intellectual Property)

By: Himanshu Jain

Startups and the Endless Possibilities

Sometimes a big corporation isn’t big enough for your brilliant ideas and you decide to go out into the free market and form your own startup. That’s great! You can now explore all options, work passionately on your interests and provide real-time value to the people. However, after the company registration procedure is done and dusted, there are still many issues surrounding the startup. One of these is the threat of someone stealing your idea and presenting to the world as their own. You wouldn’t want that now, would you? With this article, we’re going to look at Intellectual Property (IP) including trademarks, copyrights and patents and how they can help protect your startup idea.

Intro to Intellectual Property(IP)

The word “Intellectual Property” was first used in the 19th century however it wasn’t until the 20th century that term became a common usage and helped protect creations of intellect. Officially, Intellectual Property is defined as a class of property that includes intangible (lack of physical substance) creations of the intellect of an individual or an organization. These include patent, trademark, and copyright. Intellectual property can also encompass trade secrets, publicity rights, moral rights, and rights against unfair competition. The basic essence behind all the legal jargon is that your brilliant startup idea, your brainchild, is yours and yours alone and Trademark Registration, Patent Registration or Copyright Registration procedures can help ensure that they stay yours legally.

Trademark Registration

Before we get started with TradeMark Registration, let’s first ask yourselves What is a trademark?  A trademark is basically a recognizable sign, design, expression which distinguishes them as unique and as an Intellectual Property of a particular individual or organization. The word “expression” constitutes slogan, photograph, logo, graphic, color combination, sound or even smell. In most cases, however, brands look to trademark the brand name or logos. For eg. Nike’s Slogan “Just do it” and their swoosh icon are all registered trademarks. Trademark registration can help protect your startup idea and the benefits could also ensure you form a company with the brand name of your choice.

NOTE: Trademarks for Services are called Service Marks(SM)

Trademark Registration Procedure

The procedure for trademark registration is simplistic and involves the following steps:

> Conduct a Trademark Search – To file a trademark you need to ensure that there is no infringement of existing trademarks Trademark Search is a very critical and crucial step towards registering your own trademark(s). Apart from the legal ramifications of trademark infringement, a conflict between your proposed trademark and an already existing trademark could potentially lead to the tarnishing of your personal brand which you worked very hard on, undoing all the hard work behind it.
> Identify your Trademark Class- Depending on the type of product or service, In India, trademarks fall under 45 classes. You can check which classes of trademarks fall by following the link: Trademarks Classes in India.
> File your Application – File the application with appropriate Documents for trademark registration along with the prescribed fees. After filing the application for the trademark you can safely use the TM (TradeMark) or SM(Service Mark) symbol. This basically indicates that trademark is pending for the IP and alerts competitors of possible infringements
> Trademark Jornal- Your trademark gets published in the Trademarks Journal where a hearing is conducted on it for possible objections.
> Certificate Issue-  If no objections are raised against the trademark, a Trademark Registration certificate is issued. Including everything, a trademark is registered in about 18-24 months and are valid