Everything starts with a clever idea. Be that a business idea that will form the foundation for a later start-up or a new technology, developed within the scope of an academic project. Frequently, such an idea constitutes an invention with real market potential. In this case, it is recommended to protect the “intellectual property” by way of an industrial patent, for instance.
The expression “intellectual property” (IP) is an umbrella term referring to different rights. Colloquially, it is used to refer to industrial patents and copyrights. It primarily applies to “immaterial good”, i.e. creations of the human mind. From a business perspective, intellectual property is an immaterial asset. Examples include research and work results, inventions and resulting patents and brands. Besides images and wordmarks, e.g. company or product logos, elements such as colours, sounds, designs and software can be protected. The directly or indirectly related expertise – provided it is secret, significant and identifiable – plays a separate role. As it is not directly subject to legal protection, the business value of this expertise is only derived from the access limitation, i.e. the transfer of the expertise on the basis of corresponding agreements.
Budding founders invest a great deal of work, commitment and energy in their project. They must take a wide range of factors into account: funding, product development, production, etc. The protection of their own ideas and their dependence on third-party property rights and copyrights is frequently neglected or left until too late. This can cause legal obstacles: If another manufacturer holds a legally valid, industrial patent and your own product falls within their scope of protection, your competitor can take legal action. As a result, the production, use or distribution of your own product might be prohibited and you might even face claims for damages. For this reason, entrepreneurs should thoroughly engage with the topic of intellectual property at the beginning of their start-up project. The Innovation Management unit is the best point of contact for all academic members of staff at KIT who are considering to start their own company on the basis of their intellectual property.
Are you an academic member of staff at KIT and you think your research has potential? Are you considering founding a technology-based company and you have question about IP? Take advantage of our further-education programme for KIT academics on 15/03/2016. You can register until 07/03/2016. The free seminar “From Invention to Innovation” organised by KIT Innovation Management will teach you how to protect your intellectual property and benefit from it, using the example of inventions.