It is difficult work to get a product ready for launch. Research and development can take years of work and a bigger budget than many appreciate. There is a lot to think about as you near the “finish line” of the product launch date. Here is what you want to think about with respect to your intellectual property.
First, launching a product, whether a physical object or software, can touch all all aspects of intellectual property rights; patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets.
First, the easy one, if key elements of your product are not easy to reverse engineer, they are best protected as a trade secret. As you near product launch, you should work with your legal team to put the appropriate confidentiality agreements in place for anyone who may have access to the secrets behind the product.
If your product is, or incorporates, creative music, video, written content, etc. you may have copyright issues to address. Registering copyrights is not complex, nor is it expensive, but it can be important to get your registration on file on time. Be sure to bring this up with your legal team as you prepare for launch.
As you prepare to launch, you will want to get your patent application(s) on file. Whether one or more utility patents (provisional or non-provisional) or design patents, patent timing is critical, especially when dealing with potential on-sale or public disclosure bars to patentability. Don’t wait to talk to your patent attorney about patent protection.
However, before you get this close to product launch, you should consider potential infringement issues. Clearance searches and freedom to operate (FTO) opinions help you identify whether your product will infringe any existing patents. FTO opinions are helpful to anticipate litigation risks before launching a new product.
If a clearance search reveals potential infringement with an existing patent, all is not lost. There may be a “design around” strategy for achieving the same functionality without infringing the specific claims in the existing patent.
Of course, the sooner you are aware of potential infringement issues, the better. A landscape search at the very beginning of your product development cycle helps identify the general state of the art in a given field and allows you to find white space into which to steer your product development.
Just like patents, when launching a new product, you want to be conscious of both protecting your trademarks and minimizing your risk of infringing others’ trademarks. To make these assessments, you will want to work with your legal team to run trademark searches to see whether your product name is protectable and what risk you run of infringing others’ marks. Then, when you have the right name, it’s time to file for your trademark registration. These are important steps to prepare yourself for a successful product launch.
If you need assistance in any of these matters, contact RPL to speak with lawyers that have helped over 1,000 clients prepare for launching new products.