Maximum IP protection on a small budget: practical advice for entrepreneurs (2023)

Guest Post by Leena Chitnis, Founder and CEO,Timberdog®

In today's fast-paced business environment, intellectual property (IP) has become invaluable to emerging companies. IP refers to the legal rights granted to individuals or companies for their inventions, creations and innovations. Includes patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. Emerging companies invest a lot of time, effort and resources in developing their IP, making it vital for them to protect it.

Let's take a closer look at the specific reasons.


Emerging companies often rely on their unique ideas, products or services to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Obtaining patents or trademarks for their inventions or brands can prevent others from copying or imitating their innovations, protecting those ideas and giving them a competitive advantage. For example, a startup that has developed a new technology can protect it with a patent, preventing competitors from using or selling the same technology without a license. This exclusivity can be a significant advantage in the market, allowing startups to capitalize on their IP and stay ahead of the competition.


(Video) IP Management for Entrepreneurs - Entrepreneurship 101 2008/09

IP can be a valuable asset that adds to the overall value of an emerging company. For example, a startup that owns a trademark for a popular brand can build customer loyalty and brand recognition, which can translate into increased sales and market value. Similarly, a startup that owns intellectual property rights to its original creative works, such as software, music, or literature, can license or sell those works, creating additional revenue streams. Investors and potential buyers often evaluate an emerging company's IP portfolio as part of the due diligence process. A strong IP protection strategy can increase the value of a startup and appeal to potential investors or buyers.


Reputation is crucial for emerging companies as they build trust and loyalty with customers. A startup invested in building a trusted brand can protect it through trademarks and prevent others from tarnishing or tarnishing its brand image. IP protection can also help startups avoid legal disputes that could damage their reputation. For example, if a startup is accused of infringing on someone else's IP, it could lead to costly lawsuits, negative publicity, and reputational damage. By proactively protecting their own IP, emerging companies can minimize the risk of IP disputes and protect their reputation and goodwill in the marketplace.


Finally, emerging companies are often the drivers of innovation in various industries, and intellectual property protection gives them an incentive to continue developing new ideas and inventions. By obtaining patents, startups can secure the rights to their inventions and have the exclusive right to commercially exploit them for a period of time. This exclusivity gives start-ups the confidence and incentive to invest in research and development, knowing they can reap the benefits of their innovation through intellectual property protection. IP protection also encourages emerging companies to share their ideas with partners, investors and customers, as they can do so with the confidence that their IP is legally protected.


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Five years after Timberdog®, I still work very efficiently and I hope to stay lean during my business trip. Being messy has forced me to think outside the box to address myriad issues, strengthening my skills as a founder and CEO.

Providing legal services as a small business is difficult, but protecting your IP is extremely important before entering the market. Here are some tips for investing wisely in IP and managing your legal costs.


No, I don't mean rewriting. Instead, contact your alma mater's legal clinics and ask if they can help you conduct a trademark due diligence (for a patent, it is recommended that you work with a patent attorney). If you go this route, you'll be working with several cohorts of 3Ls or third-year law students to help you, for example, create patent and trademark applications that ultimately need to be reviewed by a patent and/or trademark attorney before you can get rid of the deposit. Check it out tooPatent Pro Bono program for independent inventors and small businesses. They should have a list of schools, agents, and attorneys who may be able to help you pro bono.

I was thrilled when my alma mater - Syracuse University - agreed to work with me. The observant, curious and diligent students of theCommercial law practice, led by Jessica Murray, oversaw the drafting, filing, prosecution, and final acceptance of two trademarks. All free.


(Video) Women's Entrepreneurship: How to identify and protect your IP for business success

Do you need a non-disclosure agreement? Or talent releases for an upcoming commercial shoot? You can find compact boiler templates online that you can customize to fit your needs. Always have a lawyer (it helps if you have lawyer friends) review the work you've done to make sure you've covered all your bases. In return, offer to pay your friends. Mine usually give me a big discount off the "friends and family rate". If they refuse to take payment from me, I'll take them out to dinner or send them a gift basket to show my appreciation. As a general rule, never get anything for free. Showing a physical token of gratitude goes a long way in ensuring that you can continue to reach out to your connections for help. And they will remember and appreciate your gestures.


Finding such a company takes some effort. Few law firms have these coveted pro bono slots for small businesses and startups, and you'll have to do the legwork by calling and emailing until you find them. Keep in mind that many companies deal with different types of IP, so save time by finding out what they specialize in. I was building a multipurpose dog bed so I had to make sure I found a company that covered all types of IP, not just say technology or medicine.

Finally I found itRothwell, Figg, Ernst & Manbeck, an award-winning firm based in DC and consistently ranked as one of the top intellectual property law firms in the country. Through Rothwell Figg, I was able to file a patent application and secure my third trademark.


i have worked withPatSketch(formerly The Patents Drawing Company), based in Illinois, but with employees in India. My sketches were extremely affordable (no more than a few hundred dollars to do them all) and were made to the satisfaction of my lawyers. I checked this company by asking some of their client names and was pleased to find that many reputable law firms in the US use their services.

(Video) Intellectual Property Value And Protecting Business Value


You must understand that law firms are service-oriented organizations that typically charge their individual lawyers by the hour. Lawyers who work on projects for you usually also serve a number of other clients who pay their time at market rates. While these attorneys are expensive, working with them can bring benefits in terms of the quality of the work product for your specific case, which can help avoid problems that can be caused by sloppy work. That said, there is some heavy lifting you can do ahead of time that will reduce the amount of time your attorney has to spend on your case. What has worked for me is to write down all my questions and then exhaustively research them myself. You will find that Google does a good job of cross-referencing many queries. Then and only then do I throw the most relevant of these to my lawyer - no more than 2-3 short questions! Good attorneys are busy and are happy to let you do this work in advance so you don't have to and keep your bill low.


IP protection is vital for emerging companies as it helps them gain a competitive advantage, increase their value, protect their reputation and foster innovation. Such startups must be proactive in identifying and protecting their IP assets through patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. Obtaining legal advice from IP professionals and implementing sound IP protection strategies can help emerging companies protect their valuable IP assets and thrive in today's competitive business landscape.

Leena Chitnis is the founder and CEOTimberdog®, makers of the world's first multi-purpose pet bed, RuffRest® (patent pending)

Disclaimer: The information contained in this post does not constitute, and is not intended to constitute, legal advice or the expression of an opinion that should be relied upon for any legal, investment or other purpose. If you wish to obtain legal advice on the matter discussed in this post, please contact your lawyer. The information in this post is also based on publicly available information, represents opinions, and does not in any way represent the views or official views of the entities or individuals named herein or on PatSketch.

(Video) How to Protect and Commercialize Intellectual Property - Entrepreneurship 101 2009/10


Why should small businesses protect their intellectual property? ›

Benefits of intellectual property rights for a business

From reassuring investors to increasing margins, using your patents strategically can improve your bottom line. Protecting the way your product looks with an industrial design can provide a major competitive advantage.

How do I protect my startup IP? ›

Steps to File for IP Protection
  1. Trademark. After you've performed a thorough trademark search, complete the trademark application form on the USPTO's website. ...
  2. Copyright. Complete a copyright application with the U.S. Copyright Office. ...
  3. Patent. File online with the relevant patent application. ...
  4. Trade secret.

Why is IPR important for entrepreneurs? ›

Intellectual property rights (IPR) can be used to protect the technology, brand name, design and creativity behind the concept. It gives the creator sole ownership of the concept, in a similar way to owning physical property like a house or car.

Do small businesses need to protect their inventions or it is just for large corporations? ›

Protect business growth

If you are a small business, it's very important to protect any unique products or services that you own as competitors can use your success to take away market share, resulting in slow growth or loss of revenue.

How can small businesses protect their intellectual property? ›

Register copyrights, trademarks, and patents

Copyright, trademark, and patent are three of the most common types of IP protection. These grant you exclusive rights to your creations, especially when it comes to the commercial gains of their use.

What is intellectual property in small business? ›

Your intellectual property includes the intangible assets you create for your business, such as names, designs, and automated processes. And just like tangible possessions — like supplies, equipment, buildings, and inventory — your intellectual property contributes to the value and success of your business.

What happens to IP when a startup fails? ›

If the company goes into bankruptcy, all assets are liquidated and sold for a fraction of their value at auction. This includes any intellectual property assets that are in the company's name.

What is the intellectual property protection strategy? ›

What is Intellectual Property Strategy? An IP strategy helps entities manage their intangible assets—including patents, trade secrets, trademarks, and copyrights—in a way that aligns with their overall business strategy and goals.

Should you file for intellectual property before you start a business? ›

You Should File a Patent Application Before You Pitch to Investors. As discussed above, you start to forfeit important patent rights when you make a public disclosure, public use, or offer for sale of your technology.

What are the types of IPR in entrepreneurship? ›

The four main types of intellectual property are patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets.

What is the risk of not protecting intellectual property? ›

Copyright Infringement can cost small businesses a fortune ― even when it's accidental. Intellectual property includes copyrights, trademarks, patents and trade secrets. Intellectual property violations could cost thousands of dollars and even lead to criminal charges and jail time.

What are some examples of intellectual property? ›

Examples of intellectual property rights include:
  • Patents.
  • Domain names.
  • Industrial design.
  • Confidential information.
  • Inventions.
  • Moral rights.
  • Database rights.
  • Works of authorship.
Apr 15, 2021

How can I legally protect my small business? ›

How To Protect Your Small Business From Lawsuits
  1. Create a Financial Plan.
  2. Hire an Attorney.
  3. Buy Small Business Insurance.
  4. Protect Your Business Data.
  5. Maintain and Protect Your Reputation.
  6. Separate Yourself From Your Business.
  7. Protect Your Employees.
  8. Protect Your Property.
Jun 10, 2022

What can small businesses do to protect themselves? ›

5 Ways Business Owners Can Protect Themselves Financially
  • Separate Business and Personal Money. ...
  • Create the Right Business Entity for Your Company. ...
  • Carry Appropriate Insurance Coverage. ...
  • Save for Retirement and Beyond. ...
  • Adapt Your Financial Plan As You Go.
Aug 12, 2021

What is the number one concern for small businesses? ›

Inflation remains the number one concern for small businesses by far, with more than half (53%) of them saying inflation is the biggest challenge they face. Inflation topped the list of challenges for the entirety of 2022 and is up a whopping 30-percentage-points year-over-year.

What are the 4 ways companies protect intellectual property? ›

What are the 4 types of intellectual property protections? Copyrights, trademarks, patents, and trade secrets are the four primary types of intellectual property protection.

Can an LLC protect intellectual property? ›

The liability protections of an LLC do not apply to intellectual property infringement. It should also be noted that certain IP infringements are federal crimes, including counterfeit trademarking, infringement of copyrighted works, counterfeit labeling and theft of trade secrets.

What tools do entrepreneurs have to protect their intellectual property? ›

To sum up, Patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets are all important tools for entrepreneurs to use to safeguard their intellectual property and maintain a competitive advantage for their business.

What are the 4 types of intellectual property? ›

Patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets are valuable assets of the company and understanding how they work and how they are created is critical to knowing how to protect them.

Can a business idea be intellectual property? ›

Intellectual property refers to the ownership of intellectual creations, ideas, and concepts. Common examples of business IP include brand logos and names, inventions, product design, and more. Having formal registrations for each of your business ideas will help you stop infringements of your intellectual property.

Who owns IP if no agreement? ›

IP Created by Business Owners

However, unless the owner is employed by the company, and hired for the purposes of creating IP or working within their scope of employment, ownership rights in the IP are likely retained by the creator, i.e., the company owner, and not the company, absent an assignment agreement.

What happens to IP when an LLC is dissolved? ›

When a company dissolves through bankruptcy, the intellectual property rights may be sold off to pay creditors. This can include trademarks, patents, copyrights, and trade secrets.

Who owns IP in a startup? ›

In General, Startups Own the Copyrights to Works Created by Employees. In general, the creator of a work owns the copyright to that work. The notable exception to this rule is that the rights to works created over a normal course of employment are considered to be authored and owned by the employer – not the employee.

How much does it cost to file an intellectual property patent? ›

A patent attorney will usually charge between $8,000 and $10,000 for a patent application, but the cost can be higher. In most cases, you should budget between $15,000 and $20,000 to complete the patenting process for your invention.

How can I legally protect my idea? ›

To protect your invention, you must apply for a patent. Unlike copyrights, there is no such thing as an automatic patent. Obtaining a patent can be slow and costly, taking up to 2 years and costing thousands of dollars.

How do you sell an idea to a company without them stealing it? ›

To protect your interests, consider two common strategies employed by inventors, amateur and professional alike. First, you can file a provisional patent application (if your invention is patentable). Second, you can use a nondisclosure agreement (regardless of whether it is patentable).

What type of intellectual property provides the most protection for firms? ›

Patent. A patent is used to prevent an invention from being created, sold, or used by another party without permission. Patents are the most common type of intellectual property rights that come to people's minds when they think of intellectual property rights protection.

What are the six 6 types of intellectual property *? ›

Intellectual property can exist as one of six major types: patents, trademarks, copyrights, designs, databases, and trade secrets.

What are the most popular intellectual properties? ›

The three most common types of intellectual property are patents, trademarks and copyrights, and they each provide different and varying levels of protection.

What is the most common violation of intellectual property? ›

The most common types of intellectual property disputes are likely to be related to either copyright infringement, trademark infringement, or patent infringement.

What Cannot be intellectual property? ›

Ideas, methods, or systems

Making or building things. Scientific or technical methods or discoveries; Business operations or procedures. Mathematical principles.

Are there any disadvantages to providing protection for intellectual property? ›

It Costs Money to Defend: Just because a patent assigns exclusive ownership right, it doesn't mean another person or entity is not going to use the product or invention without obtaining permission. Court cases can drag on for years and eventual settlements may hardly justify the battle.

How do you decide when something is a violation of intellectual property? ›

Violation of Intellectual Property Rights

If a third party were to assume ownership, copy, or sell someone's previously copywritten work, that would legally be considered a case of copyright infringement. Copyright law can still be enforced if others try to create simple deviations from the original source material.

What are the 7 intellectual property? ›

In India, there are 7 types of intellectual property rights, namely – copyright, trademarks, patents, geographical indications, plant varieties, industrial designs and semiconductor integrated circuit layout designs.

What are the five major intellectual property rights? ›

Intellectual property can take many forms, and each form is protected differently. In this post, we will explain the basics of the most common types of intellectual property — copyrights, moral rights, trademarks, patents, and trade secrets.

What is the cheapest way to protect a business name? ›

The easiest and least expensive way to register your trademark is online, through the USPTO's Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS). Remember that you can only register one trademark per application.

What is the best legal form for a small business? ›

If you want sole or primary control of the business and its activities, a sole proprietorship or an LLC might be the best choice. You can negotiate such control in a partnership agreement as well. A corporation is constructed to have a board of directors that makes the major decisions that guide the company.

What form of business has the most protection for the owner? ›

Corporations offer the strongest protection to its owners from personal liability, but the cost to form a corporation is higher than other structures. Corporations also require more extensive record-keeping, operational processes, and reporting.

What is the best way for a business owner to protect personal assets? ›

One strategy is to use an irrevocable trust. An irrevocable trust cannot be modified once created and places assets outside of your control. If you no longer legally own or control an asset, a creditor cannot come after it. Irrevocable trusts are also utilized for their tax shelter benefits.

How can I legally protect my online business? ›

In this post, we'll discuss a few steps you can take to make sure your business is legally sound.
  1. Take Ownership Of Your Business Name. ...
  2. Give Your Business A Legal Entity. ...
  3. Monitor Your Online Actions And Affiliations. ...
  4. Consider Getting Business Insurance. ...
  5. Use Contracts. ...
  6. Add Legal Documents to Your Website. ...
  7. Become GDPR Compliant.
Jun 28, 2021

How do entrepreneurs protect their business? ›

There are four main types of business ideas protection: Patent, trademark, copyright and design registered.

What do you think the 3 biggest risks are for small businesses? ›

6 Biggest Risks for Small Businesses
  • Financial risk. The biggest risks facing many small organizations are actually financial. ...
  • Strategic risk. It can be hard to know what steps to take when your organization is brand new. ...
  • Reputation risk. ...
  • Liability risk. ...
  • Business interruption risk. ...
  • Security risk.
Nov 11, 2020

What are 4 reasons why most small businesses fail? ›

The most common reasons small businesses fail include a lack of capital or funding, retaining an inadequate management team, a faulty infrastructure or business model, and unsuccessful marketing initiatives.

What are the 3 types of business concerns? ›

Three different kinds of concern are identified under Aktiengesetz: the contractual concern, the factual concern, and the flat concern.

How do businesses use intellectual property? ›

Intellectual property covers a wide range of business assets, from copyright to trade marks and patents to design rights. It's important to protect your intellectual property rights and avoid infringing the rights of other intellectual property owners.

Why is intellectual property important in an essay? ›

Intellectual property is important in some aspect that through on intellectual property right because it can use to protect creator's work to prevent plagiast stealing their work as own. Besides, IP rights also can give creator an exculsive right over their creation period of time.

Why are property rights important to businesses? ›

It allows owners to freely use their resources however they see fit – with the comfort that their assets will be legally protected. For businesses, this means that they have the right to use their capital to produce goods without fear of loss.

What is an example of intellectual property in entrepreneurship? ›

It can be an invention (patent / utility model), a design (industrial design), a brand name (trademark, or a literary and artistic work (copyright).

Why is it so difficult to protect intellectual property? ›

Intellectual property security is also difficult because it can be hard to determine who owns what and which licensing requirements govern how a given intellectual property asset can be reused.

What are the three importance of intellectual property? ›

Intellectual property rights like trademark registration can help you separate your products and services from others. Access or raise Capital - Through sale, licensing, or by using IPRs as collateral for debt financing, an individual can monetize for debt financing.

What are the 3 importance of intellectual property rights? ›

Your IP rights are important because they can: set your business apart from competitors. be sold or licensed, providing an important revenue stream. offer customers something new and different.

What is the main advantage of intellectual property? ›

The primary function of intellectual property rights (IPRs) is to protect and stimulate the development and distribution of new products and the provision of new services based on the creation and exploitation of inventions, trademarks, designs, creative content or other intangible assets.

What is an example of protecting property rights? ›

A good example of the legal system provisions to protect property rights is the tort law regarding land ownership. For example, according to the law in most jurisdictions, a person with the right to own property, such as land, has the right to exclude others from the property.

How does property law affect businesses? ›

Property Law allows for the recognition of ownership rights. Also, the legal system affects property rights through the recognition of business entities. Business entities are organizational forms that have an existence separate and independent from the owners or employees of the entity.

Why is protection of private property critical in a free market? ›

Private property and its protection rights are paramount for a market system to work because it enables individuals and businesses to make exchanges in the market. It determines the right over a property and its potential use and benefits.


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