Usually this time of the year LinkedIn is filled with inspiring discussion about Slush. Slush is cancelled for this autumn but in its spirit, I decided to share some intellectual property advice that is relevant specifically for start-ups and other newly established companies.
The name of the company does matter
Often the name of the company is not perceived as intellectual property. The entrepreneur may have come up with the name even before the business concept was clear. The name of the company may however be an important IP asset and it is worth taking the time to carefully choose the name before filing the notice of incorporation to the trade register.
Company names in Finland are protected in the same way as trademarks. We recommend that this protection is taken advantage of by choosing as good and distinctive a company name as possible. It is advisable already at the stage of choosing the company name, to check the availability of the name by verifying that the company name or a similar mark is not already registered by another company.
Protect the names of your products by trademark registrations
Furthermore, it is advisable to protect the names of the company’s products and services. The most suitable tool for such protection is trademark. In most occasions, EU trademark is the most efficient option because it grants protection for the name of the product or service in the entire EU with just one registration.
Company names registered in Finland are not protected abroad. Therefore, where a company aims for an international market, we recommend also registering the name of the company as a trademark at least on the markets most crucial to the company’s business.
Domain names are inexpensive but disputes around them expensive
Registering a domain name is for many an integral part of the initial phase of the company’s operation. Registration of domain names is inexpensive and therefore we recommend registering all of the relevant domain names at least on the most crucial markets.
If some of the important domain names have already been registered by someone else, transferring them to the name of your company may prove to be difficult or expensive. For that reason, the availability of the relevant domain names can be given weight already at the time of choosing the name of the company.
Ensure that intellectual property is transferred to the company
Every company owns some intellectual property, and more is constantly developed in the operation of the company. For example, a code created in an IT company is protectable by copyright, inventions may be patented and there may be significant trade secrets related to the business.
It is crucial to ensure that the company holds the rights to the intellectual property it needs for its core business. Because intellectual property rights are primarily created by people, they should by contracts be transferred to the company from employees, partners, shareholders, subcontractors and others who have created them. Furthermore, intellectual property and liabilities related to it should always be taken into account in supply and service contracts between the company and its clients.