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I have an idea for an web-site service business. Should i secure legal representation for intellectual property ?

Seattle, WA |

This business will be based out of Washington State. Need to know if I should apply for patent or have legal documents to protect my idea when presenting it to possible investors.

Attorney Answers 4

Posted

More information would be required to answer this question definitively - and due to the sensitive nature of your service, please do not give us any more information about what it is you are trying to protect on this website. The best advice I can give is to speak with a local attorney about your matter. Without knowing whether your service is patent-able, I'm betting your local attorney will advise you to use NDA agreements to hand out to potential investors as you present your idea to them. I suggest you also look into trademark protection for your service once you have developed a unique name for it.

This post does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. See a lawyer in your home jurisdiction for more information. DunlapWeaver is licensed in California, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington, DC, Virginia, and West Virginia. Our trademark and copyright registration practice is national. Under no circumstances shall the response posted above create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and/or poster of the original question, unless and until a separate engagement agreement is signed by DunlapWeaver and its client. The information provided above is not legal advice nor is it conveyed in the course of an attorney-client relationship, but is intended merely as a general overview with regard to the subject matter covered. You should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel and are encouraged to do so.

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Bruce E. Burdick

Bruce E. Burdick

Posted

In view of the AIA with its FTF provisions, which take effect 3/16/2013, you need to consult a registered patent attorney with Internet expertise. Investors [VC or corporate] seldom if ever sign NDA's [investors don't need you, you need them, and they never want to be tied up to something before they see it] and if they are experienced enough you would want to work with them, they presenting an NDA is usually a deal-killer as they will know you are an amateur if you present one to them.

Bruce E. Burdick

Bruce E. Burdick

Posted

typo: "they presenting" --> "then presenting"

Douglas Richard Blecki Jr.

Douglas Richard Blecki Jr.

Posted

While its true that big-money investors tend to avoid signing NDAs, Non Disclosures are often an entrepreneur's only source of protection while trying to cobble together some start-up capital to get a business off the ground. If you plan to present this idea to wealthy local investors, then Mr. Burdick's advice is sound. If you are going to present this idea to friends, family, and local connections, then an NDA may be the way to go, depending on the patent-ability of the service. Again, there are many variables at play here, and a local patent attorney can best answer this question for you.

Bruce E. Burdick

Bruce E. Burdick

Posted

Where you want an NDA is when you deal with potential manufacturers and vendors, such as getting price quotes so you can budget development costs. Then the shoe is on the other foot. You have the money and they need you and you have a choice of vendors and they know it. If they don't sign your NDA you let them know it will cost them your business. Funny how that usually changes their mind.

Bruce E. Burdick

Bruce E. Burdick

Posted

As of March 16, 2013 there is a disincentive to using an NDA as it prevents application of the one year grace period for filing a patent and opens up the potential for someone to beat you to the patent office and phoney up independent invention.

Bruce E. Burdick

Bruce E. Burdick

Posted

As to starting a website, the following will hopefully alert you to other legal and quasi-legal considerations. http://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/checklist-for-starting-a-website

Posted

Your best bet would be to seek an initial consultation with an intellectual property attorney, who can advise you regarding whether patent, trade secret, or some other method of intellectual property or contractual protection is best suitable for your proposed business.

For example, you may want to file a provisional patent application and use a non-disclosure agreement when pitching aspects of the business to investors. But, without knowing more, it is impossible to know whether those (or other) options would be good for your particular situation.

Of course, it would be unwise to provide a detailed explanation of your proposed business on a public forum like Avvo, if you think there is anything novel about your proposed business.

I am an attorney, but I am not YOUR attorney. By providing free, generalized information, I am not entering into an attorney/client relationship with you, nor am I providing legal advice applicable to your particular needs.

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Bruce E. Burdick

Bruce E. Burdick

Posted

Generally agree as to patent part of answer. Disagree on presenting NDA to investors. In view of the AIA with its FTF provisions, which take effect 3/16/2013, you need to consult a registered patent attorney with Internet expertise. I have worked with Venture Capitalists ("VC") for over 30 years. Investors [VC or corporate] seldom if ever sign NDA's. Investors don't need you, you need them, and they never want to be tied up on something before they see it. If they are experienced enough you would want to work with them, then presenting an NDA is nearly always a deal-killer as they will know you are an amateur if you present one to them.

Michael P Matesky II

Michael P Matesky II

Posted

I have generally experienced the same thing with regard to VC investors. However, in rare instances, some will agree to some form of NDA, and there are other types potential investors that would more readily agree to an NDA. I think the key point is that Asker will need to talk to an IP attorney about his particular factual situation in order to know whether an NDA, patent, or other other method of protection makes sense.

Posted

Absolutely you should see an IP attorney. If you have enough concern to ask the question you surely have enough proprietary material to see an IP attorney. Get one that does patents, trademarks, and copyrights (all 3) and who has Internet experience, as you likely need review in all 3 areas. Unless you have a business attorney, you will also need guidance there. Setting up a website business poses a number of special problems.

I am not your lawyer and you are not my client. Free advice here is without recourse and any reliance thereupon is at your sole risk. This is done without compensation as a free public service. I am licensed in IL, MO, TX and I am a Reg. Pat. Atty. so advice in any other jurisdiction is strictly general advice and should be confirmed with an attorney licensed in that jurisdiction.

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Bruce E. Burdick

Bruce E. Burdick

Posted

Review the following for additional issues to consider when starting a website business. http://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/checklist-for-starting-a-website

Posted

I agree with Michael that it would be wise to sit down with an attorney, even if it's just a consultation, to discuss IP issues. Additionally, it would probably be a good idea to discuss other issues such as how to protect your ownership and control over the business, the appropriate entity for your business, and how to reduce liability concerns if you plan to hire employees or retain independent contractors.

Protecting the IP is definitely a big concern - but corporate governance and other start up issues are equally important, and you should make sure to educate yourself on those as well when getting things off the ground.

Legal disclaimer: The answer provided above is for general information purposes only and should not be relied on as specific legal advice. This answer does not form an attorney-client relationship. You should consult with an attorney of your choice to fully advise you about your legal rights and obligations.

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