Intellectual Property protection tips

WARNING

Project Owners should acknowledge that, LIKE ALL OTHER CROWDFUNDING PORTALS, WinnersFund offers NO ASSURANCE and NO GUARANTEE WHATSOEVER for the protection of their Intellectual Property (IP), Trade Marks (TMs) and trade names. WinnersFund only tips on how to pursue the right decisions.

BUSINESS IDEA PROTECTION TIPS

The first that Project Owner must bear in mind is that ideas (in general) are not protected by law; it is only certain implementations of the ideas that are protected and this under specific conditions and for a given period of time. Moreover, documents are only protected by copyright. Any publication of an idea, in whatever form, ranging from a scientific publication to a tweet, and in whichever place in the world, may and probably will INVALIDATE a future Patent Application in a reputable jurisdiction. Therefore, if you are considering filing a Patent Application, you need to absolutely avoid any publicity about your idea.

If you are a Project Owner and you think you are not significantly experienced with Intellectual Property (IP) issues is strongly recommended to follow the subsequent tips before drafting a Crowdfunding Campaign:

1. Search, search, search! IP protection in the form of a Patent is usually a lengthy, difficult, extremely sophisticated and expensive process. So don’t waste your time trying to protect something that has already been invented and, by extension, protected and implemented, or even has been invalidated as a potential Patent, by someone else. First, try to understand what IP stands for. This can be achieved through reading material published by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), the European Patent Office (EPO) or the United States Patents and Trademarks Office (USPTO). Then, search whether your idea has already been patented, or invalidated. For European Patents you can start searching from here, while for US Patents from here. If your idea is not there, then you are probably right to want to give it a try. Chances are that you have something truly unique in your mind (…or something that is not patentable). You should therefore proceed to the next question.

2. Ask yourself: "Is my idea patentable"? It is strongly recommend to read this before coming up with an answer.

If your answer is "NO", please proceed to question nr. 3.

If your answer is "YES" or "I DON’T KNOW", you are recommended to appoint an experienced IP lawyer before exposing it in any way to the world. WinnersFund will soon have a list of experienced international IP lawyers for you to choose from. Until then, you may contact the office of our own Patent Attorneys in Pappas IP and negotiate your own deal without any interference of WinnersFund.

If you cannot afford an IP Attorney, it is strongly recommended to file a Provisional Patent Application yourself through the USPTO before publicising your Idea. USPTO offers a low-cost basic protection for a period of 12+12 months at fees starting from 100 US Dollars.

If you cannot afford the filing of a Provisional Patent application either, please proceed directly to the next question. In any case, write down the idea and submit a hardcopy of it to a notary public, who knows what to do; it is always in your benefit to at least have a hard proof of your copyright.

3. Ask yourself: "Can I expose my idea in a way to make it attractive, yet not exposing its most important implementation secrets (the so called 'secret sauce', i.e. the 'trade secrets')"? If your answer is "YES", try to keep your trade secrets well behind the curtains. Discuss them only with your closest partners and trusted people, and upload to WinnersFund everything else than the "secret sauce". If your idea stands out and you have a great team, experienced investors will still love you - perhaps even more - if you don't disclose the trade secret. Think of the iPhone, for instance: it was not the world's first smartphone. However, only Apple knew how to make it so attractive. Anyway, if your answer is again "NO", please proceed to next question.

4. ...So, it appears that you have a really revolutionary business idea, but cannot find a way to protect it. If this is the case, the only question left is, whether you are more willing to risk "losing" it because of exposure, or to let it dust in your drawer - and probably perish in silence - waiting for the day that you "somehow" get the required funds. Note that there is always the chance that somebody else conceives the same idea and finds a way to implement it before you do. Venture Capital Managers use to say that at least 50 different people around the world conceive the same “truly unique” business idea at the same time, but hardly 1 out of them makes a business out of it. Yes, you have a decision to make and it’s a hard one.

But here’s another tip: if you have the time and manpower, try to implement as much as possible of the idea before exposing it to the world. If you achieve this, you will be several months ahead of everyone else who might think of the same idea or decide to copy it. At the same time, showing a certain degree of implementation discourages potential copycats and attracts investors!

TRADE MARKS

With regards to Trade Marks (TMs) things are much simpler, yet tricky. Therefore, you are always advised to consult an experienced IP Lawyer before taking any decisions.

If you wish to proceed alone, try first to understand the basics surrounding a TM (you can read more here and here). Then, decide on the unique name of your Project, company or product. In turn, perform a global TM search though the European Authority for Trade Marks (OAMI) and other local TM authorities.

When you find the TM you like the most, it is recommended to first confirm its availability as an internet domain name. You may also wish to search name availability in social networks. There are many online services that will do that for you at zero or minimal cost.

Is the name free? Great! Grab it in domain names, social pages / profiles etc and proceed to the filing of an application for an EU Trade Mark using the five-step electronic application of OAMI which will cost 900 Euros, or protect it through USPTO (fees can be found here).