By Péralte C. Paul
Just because you make something from your own ideas doesn’t mean you own it.
That may sound strange, but for entrepreneurs — specifically those who have startups centered on physical products — ensuring they own what they make and how they make it should be a key part of their business strategy.
That’s the crux of two upcoming seminars the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) is hosting on intellectual property (IP) on June 9 and June 16.
The classes, which are open to all entrepreneurs making physical products, will be led by Troutman Sanders IP attorneys Jim Schutz and Rusty Close. They are designed to give entrepreneurs the critical information they will need to help them protect and retain ownership rights to their products:
- Intellectual Property Part I: The Basics (register here).
- Intellectual Property Part II: Strategy (register here).
“Our main goal is to cover the basics of IP to give entrepreneurs a primer on the basic aspects of patents and trademarks, specifically how those apply to a startup,” Schutz said.
The classes are part of ATDC’s manufacturing-focused series, “Beyond Customer Discovery for Product Entrepreneurs.” These classes and seminars, which also include planning for scale, business models and product realization, and design considerations, are formulated to help entrepreneurs who make physical products.
“IP is a critical part of bringing a product to market,” said Jenny Bass, an ATDC community catalyst who advises ATDC Select and Community companies that have a manufacturing focus. “And it’s extremely important for entrepreneurs to give proper focus and attention to managing their IP because it’s critical to their company’s long-term viability and it’s crucial to that startup’s ability to make money.”
Indeed, hardware-making entrepreneurs, like their software-making counterparts, will turn to outsiders to help them bring their ideas to fruition.
“Very often, what happens is you have a general idea and you hire someone to turn your idea into something
viable,” Schutz said. “For hardware or product makers, they need to be careful and have agreements in place that address each person who contributes to that process. That’s to ensure the entrepreneur is preserving ownership and the rights that they think they have.”
Underappreciating the potential risk of bringing in external assistance to do the prototyping or product development without properly protecting your IP rights is a mistake, he said.
“What we want to do in these classes is make sure these folks understand what the different types of IP are, what they protect, how they relate to the business they’re pursuing, and to help them understand how they can prioritize time and expenditures,” Schutz said. “At the end of the day, the ability to protect their IP is going to be critical to the success of the company in the long term.”