2021-02-24

Can’t this wait?

IP without Jargon By Todd Bailey, Scale AI* (3 minute read) - February 8, 2021

Generating value in today’s digital world is easier than ever. So is copying and stealing.

But you can reduce the risks by protecting your IP (intellectual property). Although information about IP is everywhere, Scale AI wants to help you transform IP information into IP action. In this blog, IP without Jargon, we’re unpacking IP concepts, debunking IP myths and, along the way, throwing in some IP terminology [in square brackets] to help you learn the lingo. Let’s go.

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Can’t this wait?

Protecting your IP isn’t difficult.  

Brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss’ unprotected ideas for a social network may have helped fuel Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook empire.  Whether or not their ideas had any effect on Zuckerberg’s eventual success isn’t clear.  But it is clear that the brothers could have taken a couple simple steps to help protect their IP.  

Before they told Mark about their ideas, they could have signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that would have legally prevented Mark from using the ideas for his own benefit.  

And before Mark did any programming, the brothers could have signed a contract with Mark giving them ownership of the programming code.  That would have made it harder for Mark to reuse or copy the code for his own project.

But Cameron and Tyler didn’t do either of these.  And, by the time they realized they should have, it was too late.

In my last post, we saw that “IP” simply means the ideas, information or data that you want to protect.   A few examples got you thinking about what kinds of IP you might have in your organization.

Feeling overwhelmed after hearing in the Winklevoss/Facebook story?   Don’t be.  Protecting your IP isn’t difficult.  It only requires two things:  

  1. Figure out what IP is worth protecting, and 
  2. Take steps to protect it.

IP Without Jargon is here to help point you in the right direction.  Read on!

Ok, but I’m busy.  Can’t this wait?

Not really. Most IP protections need to be in place before you use or disclose your IP.   

To make matters worse, most IP protections operate on a first-come-first-served basis.  That means if someone else protects similar IP first, you could be shut out altogether.  

Worst of all, your IP may not even belong to you if you don’t have the proper contracts in place.   Shall I go on?

IP Myth: My company automatically owns all IP created by employees and vendors. 

IP Fact: Unless contracts expressly transfer IP ownership, IP will be owned by the employee or vendor that created it.

The Winklevosses didn’t sign any agreement with Zuckerberg, so Mark was the legal owner of all the code he programmed for them.  Unfortunately, by the time some people realize they need to protect their IP, it’s too late.   

Think of protecting your IP like choosing tires and brakes for your car – procrastination and the cheap option are not good objectives.  

Acting early and diligently will pay off.   

Key Takeaways.

  • IP means any idea, information or data that can be protected.
  • Most IP protections must be in place before you use or disclose your IP.
  • Procrastination can kill your chance to protect IP.
  • Act early and diligently to protect your IP.

In our next post, we’ll kick the tires on the various ways IP can be protected.


*Todd is Chief IP Officer at Scale AI, and a lawyer, patent agent and IP strategist with 25 years’ experience helping startups, SMEs and multinationals protect and commercialize their IP.

Please Note: Concepts discussed here have been simplified to facilitate learning. You should consult a qualified IP lawyer or agent to discuss your unique IP needs. Protecting your IP should not be a do-it-yourself project.

Scale AI is Canada’s AI Supercluster, investing in AI supply chain projects, acceleration and talent development across Canada. Visit us at www.scaleai.ca to see how we can help your business grow.

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