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Florida's new tech companies must protect intellectual property

When most people think of tech companies, they think of California's Silicon Valley. However, Miami and Tampa Bay are both becoming hubs for tech startups. One Florida intellectual property (IP) attorney says that "because everybody's moving from the East coast to Florida and there's a lot of money here, and the university system is set up very nicely, I just think it's going to just go crazy in Florida."

Too many tech entrepreneurs, however, don't know how to protect their IP. That can leave them easy prey to those who try to exploit this lack of protection. Unscrupulous competitors can:

  • Infringe on trademarks
  • Violate patents
  • Copy brand assets
  • Steal trade secrets

They may also poach employees from these tech startups.

The attorney notes that one reason tech companies are at risk of becoming the victims of weaknesses in their IP protection is that they're often in a hurry to be the first on the market with a product. He adds that entrepreneurs need to be careful with their partnerships.

He says, "Where people make mistakes is they are so hot and heavy to do deals with players in the industry that they end up giving away their IP -- they license their IP…and they don't get anything back…except that maybe the larger player will take the application and help them market it. I call it IP leakage. It's like having a boat with a bunch of holes in it."

It's important for a small business owner to know what needs to be patented and what doesn't. If you have limited resources, it's likely best to work on getting patents for your most valuable products or services -- particularly ones that you're making deals around. The attorney says that "you've got to say, ‘Look, just because we're doing a deal with you doesn't mean that you get a license to our entire patent portfolio.'"

Any business that is built on its unique products, services and ideas needs to take the appropriate precautions to protect those from theft and misuse. That's why it's wise to consult an experienced IP attorney as early as possible in your business planning.

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