July 01, 2018 Landslide

The IP Practitioner’s Guide to Working with Startups

By Natalie Alfaro Gonzales and Steve Maule

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, has described his organization’s position on innovation as “stubborn on vision . . . flexible on details.”1 It seems intuitive that a successful strategy for startups includes flexible business solutions and innovation, but it is just as important for legal practitioners counseling startups to be “flexible on details.” In dealing with startups, the rapid pace of development and frequent changes in market conditions typically demand more flexibility than when dealing with a more mature company. Intellectual property (IP) practitioners counseling startups should be prepared to adapt to these frequent changes and deal with IP issues beyond prosecution of intellectual property and litigation. To best serve startups, IP practitioners should be stubborn in their pursuit of solutions for startups, yet flexible and holistic in assessing the specific legal strategies and solutions suitable for each company. That is, an IP practitioner should be prepared to leverage all IP types—patents, copyrights, trade and service marks, and trade secrets—when advising startups. Further, an IP practitioner should shift his or her focus to meet the demands of the startup’s market, product, financial position, and legal circumstances. The key to dealing with startups is recognizing there is never a one-size-fits-all solution.

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