How to protect an innovation: tips for your start-up

When an idea becomes an invention: that’s when things get really exciting for start-ups. To prevent the feeling of euphoria from fading, start-up founders should think about their intellectual property (IP) very early on. Here are eight tips on IP for start-ups.

Innovations are valuable assets. You can monetise your intellectual property by protecting them. Copyright: iStock

1. Your innovation is a valuable asset
To ensure that your invention or creation continues to belong to your start-up and that others don’t use it without your permission, you can register it in Switzerland with the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property (IPI). This protection will grant your start-up an exclusive right, which can be enforced in the event of a dispute.


2. Ask yourself what should be protected – and how
Start-ups can file technical inventions (patents), product names (trade marks) and the shape of objects (designs) with the IPI to protect them from being copied. Artistic works and software (copyright) are automatically protected from the moment they are created and no registration is necessary.


3. When it comes to patents, silence is golden
Keep your invention secret until you have applied for a patent. If you make your invention publicly known in any way before then, you can no longer protect it. An invention is only new as long as nobody knows about it. This is one of the basic requirements for patent protection.


4. Dealing with knowledge: inform your employees
As the start-up founder, you should inform your team about protecting the company’s IP. It should be clearly stated in writing what may and may not be shared with external parties. This also applies for smaller ideas that are not worth patenting but which are valuable trade secrets nonetheless.


5. Be careful during presentations and negotiations
Avoid disclosing the technical details of your invention. You can of course say what problem the invention solves and what the advantages of your idea are (faster, cheaper, more precise). But you should never explain the technical tricks behind the solution. If such details are requested, you should use non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) (e.g. for pitches).


6. Conduct searches
Information on registered trade marks, patents and designs is available to the public. It’s worth looking at these databases. Because sometimes it’s easier to gather patent knowledge or acquire a licence than it is to develop something that already exists. Searches will provide you an overview of how and where your competitors are protecting their IP. You can do simple searches yourself. Beyond that, we recommend conducting professional trade mark searches and assisted patent searches.


7. Investors look for IP rights
Solid protection can give you a competitive edge. For many investors, IP rights are an important factor in deciding whether to invest. This is because intellectual property is a guarantee for success should a competitor decide to copy your products.


8. Monetise your IP
You can sell trade marks, patents, designs and copyright or allow others to use the protected idea in exchange for a licence fee. In certain industries (pharmaceuticals and biotech), IP can even account for a large part of a company’s value.


The IPI is there for start-ups

Start-ups can obtain information on all aspects of IP protection at www.ipi.ch. Call us or send us an email with your request.


Back to all blog articles

Share article