4.1 Professional advice is advised
This course cannot provide you with everything you need to know about intellectual property, however here are some tips to consider and discuss with a legal adviser, as you start your business.
- If you are currently working for someone else, you should check the terms of your employment to ensure that your employer does not own any new ideas or inventions. Similarly, working on your own idea under the radar, in their time and using their resources, could create problems for you further down the line. Keep a clear distinction between your employed work and your new venture.
- A non-disclosure document or confidentiality agreement will allow you to have conversations with experts and advisers about your ideas without jeopardising your position.
- As you work up your idea you will possibly have sought and gained lots of input from friends, colleagues and others. These conversations may even result in joint ideas or loose proposals to be co-founders. Once there is an agreement between you and others, you need to agree on the terms of the relationship to prevent huge problems down the line.
- If you are going to be working with other people on your business idea – perhaps employing independent contractors – then you should ensure that all IP rights are assigned to your company. If you employ someone from a competitor, then ensure that they aren’t bound by any confidentiality or non-compete conditions.
- If you are using open source software as part of your product, you need to carefully check the rights and permissions. Similarly, if you intend to use images on your website, you do not want to infringe others’ copyright.
- Protection should cover all the country markets that you intend to trade in.
While this course is written as though starting a new business is a linear process, the reality is that you will have to operate on many fronts at the same time.
Activity 1 Finding advice
Before you move on to consider the types of business there are, take some time to make some notes below on whether you need to get advice on protecting your idea. There is a lot of information available via the internet and often your local enterprise partnership or economic development agency will have local law firms that provide seminars and free advice for new businesses.
Here are some websites that produce information on all aspects of starting a business and entrepreneurship:
If you have a particularly novel concept, product or idea and you have invested a lot of your time and energy in developing it, it makes no sense to allow someone else to capitalise on it. By seeking professional advice early on you may save yourself a lot of trouble later, or costly challenges from employers, employees or colleagues.
Next you will look at the different legal structures a business can take.