By Debby Winters
Before publicly disclosing its intellectual property (IP), a startup should balance the risks with the rewards of allowing the confidential and sensitive IP information to get out into the public domain. Startups often misstep and disclose patentable subject matter at investor meetings, pitch events, or on company websites prior to filing a patent application. Unfortunately, public disclosure of an invention prior to filing a patent application can limit or even destroy patent rights. Such public disclosure can also destroy a company’s trade secrets.
Third-party conversations with those not under legal obligation to maintain confidentiality, such as a public pitch or presentation, a trade show, or publication are common examples of what can be considered a public disclosure to the patent office. If such disclosure is necessary, the startup should file a provisional patent application prior to the disclosure or at the very least have the third parties sign a written Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA).
One caveat to that rule is that venture capitalists generally avoid signing NDAs because they deal with many startups and believe confidentiality obligations limit their contact and investment opportunities. Furthermore, while speaking at trade shows or making a pitch, securing an NDA may not be feasible. In such instances, to avoid disclosing confidential information, the revealed information should be limited to generalities.
In the next part of this series we will look at the IP plan.
By Debby Winters
On their path to success startup companies often face significant risk and liability with respect to Intellectual Property (IP). The failure to adequately address IP issues can potentially lead to the permanent loss of these rights and could possibly create a litigation risk. Insufficient or nonexistent IP protection can also hamper business transactions, including seed funding and status as a desirable acquisition target.
In a series of blogs, we will look at some of the common IP pitfalls startups face and possible steps that startups can take to avoid those pitfalls and protect their valuable IP assets while at the same time reducing the risk of litigation.
Let’s start out by defining what an IP asset is.
The term “intellectual property” can be thought of as creations of the mind that are given legal rights commonly associated with real or personal property. These rights can and do have real economic value. These property rights are generally a result of either federal and/or state laws and include the commonly understood rights belonging to patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets.
All businesses have some form of IP that provides a competitive advantage and helps generate profits. Many companies mistakenly believe that patent protection is the only form of IP protection and ignore the value of non-patent IP. However, startups should identify both patent and non-patent related IP assets when evaluating their IP portfolio.
Startups, no matter whether small or large, should develop an IP plan. This IP plan should identify both existing and future IP assets. In the next of this series, we will talk more about the IP plan; what it should include and how to put it together. Stay tuned!
Anyone who requested an extension of time to file their 2017 tax return must file today. Taxpayers filing today who also owe should pay as much as possible to reduce interest and penalties.
Here are links to three resources on IRS.gov that will help these last-minute filers:
Today, October 15, is the filing deadline for taxpayers who requested an extension for their 2017 tax return. Here are a few things to help you get filed!
Try IRS Free File or e-file. Taxpayers can e-file their tax return for free through IRS Free File. The program is available on IRS.gov through Oct. 15. IRS e-file is easy, safe and the most accurate way to file taxes.
File by Oct. 15. Taxpayers with extensions should file their tax returns by Monday, Oct. 15. If they owe, they should pay as much as possible to reduce interest and penalties. IRS Direct Pay allows individuals to securely pay from their checking or savings accounts. These taxpayers can consider an installment agreement, which allows them to pay over time.
There is more time for the military. Military members and those serving in a combat zone generally get more time to file. These taxpayers typically have until at least 180 days after they leave the combat zone to both file returns and pay any taxes due.
There is also more time in certain disaster areas. People who have an extension and live or work in a disaster area often have more time to file. The disaster relief page on IRS.gov has more information. Hurricane Michael victims have more time.
Taxpayers owed a refund should use Direct Deposit. The fastest way for taxpayers to get their refund is to combine direct deposit and e-file.
There are IRS online payment options for taxpayers who owe. Taxpayers who requested an extension should have paid the tax they owed by the deadline back in April. Taxpayers who find they still owe taxes can pay them with IRS Direct Pay. It’s the simple, quick and free way to pay from a checking or savings account. For other payment options, taxpayers can visit the Paying Your Taxespage on IRS.gov.
Keep a copy of tax return. Taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax return and all supporting documents for at least three years.
Taxpayers can view their account information. Individual taxpayers can go to IRS.gov/account and login to view their balance, payment history, pay their taxes and access tax records through Get Transcript. Before setting up an account, taxpayers should review Secure Access: How to Register for Certain Online Self-Help Tools to make sure they have the information needed to verify their identities.
Here are tips the IRS gives to help you understand the different tax filings statuses.
Taxpayers don’t typically think about their filing status until they file their taxes. However, a taxpayer’s status could change during the year, so it’s always a good time for a taxpayer to learn about the different filing statuses and which one they should use.
It’s important a taxpayer uses the right filing status because it can affect the amount of tax they owe for the year. It may even determine if they must file a tax return at all. Taxpayers should keep in mind that their marital status on Dec. 31 is their status for the whole year.
Sometimes more than one filing status may apply to taxpayers. When that happens, taxpayers should choose the one that allows them to pay the least amount of tax.
Here’s a list of the five filing statuses and a description of who claims them:
- Single. Normally this status is for taxpayers who aren’t married, or who are divorced or legally separated under state law.
- Married Filing Jointly. If taxpayers are married, they can file a joint tax return. When a spouse passes away, the widowed spouse can usually file a joint return for that year.
- Married Filing Separately. A married couple can choose to file two separate tax returns. This may benefit them if it results in less tax owed than if they file a joint tax return. Taxpayers may want to prepare their taxes both ways before they choose. They can also use this status if each wants to be responsible only for their own tax.
- Head of Household. In most cases, this status applies to a taxpayer who is not married, but there are some special rules. For example, the taxpayer must have paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home for themselves and a qualifying person. Taxpayers should check all the rules and make sure they qualify to use this status.
- Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child. This status may apply to a taxpayer if their spouse died during one of the previous two years and they have a dependent child. Other conditions also apply.