With the recent boom of start-ups and entrepreneurs in Western Australia, many small business owners are not aware that pitching your idea to an audience in the early stages of your development could result in loss of your IP rights.

According to a study from 2013, there are more than 100 start-up technology companies within Perth, and more than 2,500 people involved in start-ups. The average investment in tech start-ups in Perth in recent years was about $14 million per year, and the total funding pool available was approx. $70 million.

Many start-ups are reluctant to dedicate significant time and money to protect their idea. Instead, small business owners focus on publishing the idea to obtain customer feedback and potential revenue. Spending precious money on legal expenses to rapidly build, or acquire, a patent portfolio is typically low on the list of priorities.

By disclosing your inventive concept to the public audience, for example to other start-ups in pitching nights or potential customers, you put the validity of a patent at risk. In the worst case, by disclosing your inventive idea you may lose the possibility to obtain an enforceable IP right.

As someone who regularly assists small businesses to protect their ideas, it is important for me to note that not all is lost. Some countries such as Australia, the United States, Canada and Japan have a grace period. Under certain circumstances, this grace period allows for public disclosure of an invention without affecting subsequent IP rights.

In Perth we have a rising number of start-up communities and accelerator programs, all of which have experienced mentors to help advise start-ups in various fields including IP rights. SpaceCubed, Innovation Bay and the Founders Institute are just a few to mention.

As a mentor for IP at SpaceCubed, it is my hope to raise awareness of the risks and the potential value of IP rights at an early stage of your start-up. My advice to you is to obtain specialist advice from a Patent Attorney who can help formulate an IP strategy and inform you of any risks that you need to be aware of.

For further information on how we can assist you with protecting your technological innovation, please contact FB Rice.