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Shireen Smith

If a fledgling technology company can claim sole rights to its software or systems, it can compete with the larger firms

Intellectual property expert Shireen Smith provides advice

“The law has always been slow to catch up with new technology, and nowhere is this more evident than on the web. Technology is a copyright-intensive industry and disregarding the importance of IP law is extremely dangerous for any technology company,” says Shireen Smith, leading IP lawyer and founder of IP specialist law firm Azrights.

Software solutions can make it possible to create substantial businesses from simple ideas, for example Uber and Airbnb. However, unless technological systems are protected by a suitable legal framework, businesses can lose the commercial advantages that their innovation has given them. Shireen Smith believes that IP is the foundation of any business and companies should ensure that it is protected as early as possible.

Shireen said, “Because of the competitive and fast-moving nature of the technology industry, it is vital that tech startups consult an IP specialist as early as possible. That’s because IP law can sometimes lead to surprising results. For example, you might find that the person with ownership rights is not necessarily the one you expect.

“If there is something to patent, then invariably filing for patent protection is necessary before even sourcing the funding for new software or technology.

“In their haste to rush to market quickly, many entrepreneurs are making a classic mistake: failing to protect their IP before revealing their ideas. Patents are only granted if an invention is novel and has not been disclosed to third parties. Therefore, startups which raise investment through crowdfunding sites before securing a patent lose the possibility of patenting the concept later on.

“Many entrepreneurs fail to seek legal advice before trying to raise funds through crowdfunding sites. They naively assume these sites must have thought through the legal aspects on their behalf.

“However, in practice they need to find the funds to file an initial patent pending application before speaking to angel investors or seeking crowdfunding because few investors agree to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) before listening to an opening pitch. It bolsters a business’s credibility enormously if it has taken steps to protect its IP beforehand.

Shireen continued, “Another danger associated with using crowdfunding without appropriate IP protection is that well-resourced competitors are scouring these sites and are free to exploit the technology or concept you just shared with the world. Innovators often sabotage their own ideas by alerting businesses to it who are well placed to copy it.”

“Another issue is technology startups unwittingly infringing on the rights of others. Formlabs, a team of PhD students, managed to raise just under $3m (£2m) to commercialise an accessible 3D printer. But the virtual high fives soon turned sour as an established company, 3D Systems, sued them for patent infringement.

“IP has a potentially transformative effect on a business. If a fledgling technology company can claim sole rights to its software or systems, it can compete with the larger firms.”

On the evening of October 13 at the Institute of Directors, Shireen Smith launches a new book called ‘Intellectual Property Revolution’, which is all about how to successfully manage IP assets, protect brands and add value to your business in the digital economy. It is written in plain English and is helpful for business owners and ‘brand guardians’.

A video explaining more about how the digital economy is changing IP can be found here.

Useful links:
Azrights website: http://azrights.com/
Azrights on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/Azrights
Azrights on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Azrights

ENDS

About Shireen Smith:

Shireen qualified as a solicitor in 1985 and began to focus on IP, IT, trade marks and copyright as an in-house lawyer at Reuters in the late 80s. She has extensive practical experience of intellectual property and technology law and solid academic credentials, including a Masters in Intellectual Property law from QMW, London University. Shireen is consistently praised for the depth of her expertise and pragmatic, accessible advice.

Having developed a good grasp of the IP issues relevant to blue chip companies, she then applied that knowledge to working with start-ups and SMEs once she founded Azrights in 2005. Her company’s website is here: http://azrights.com/.

Shireen has written many articles and is also author of the bestselling book, Legally Branded, which was published in 2012. It is a text book feel about it. It has several 5 star reviews on Amazon, and offers accessible information on IP and internet law to business owners. Shireen frequently speaks at events for entrepreneurs, branding professionals and lawyers on intellectual property, internet law, trade marks, domain names, and other brand matters.

Photographs available. Journalists are welcome to attend the event. Numbers are limited, so please apply early. For further information about Shireen Smith and her new book please contact Tina Fotherby on 07703 409 622 or tina@famouspublicity.com or George Murdoch on 07834 643 977 or george@famouspublicity.com at Famous Publicity.

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