Beware of the Start Up Weekend

I had lunch with a colleague who is an IP attorney and an engineer.  He was telling me about his participation in a start up weekend and all of the challenges and fun that he had.  In hearing this, we discussed, as patent attorneys do, the consequences of disclosing ideas to a loosely held group of people whose only relationship to each other is on the back of a napkin. 

Most start up weekends do not impose any obligation of confidentiality on their attendees for all that is developed and disclosed in a 48 hour period.  This raised the concern that perhaps anything that is developed that may be rather meaningful, i.e. might lead to actual commercialization of a product or service, may need to be “black boxed”.  In other words, the team of developers could agree to disclose only the basic outline of the structure and/or function of the development and then disclose the details of the operation once a patent application has been filed or a confidentiality agreement has been signed. 

To do otherwise may jeopardize the group’s ability to seek meaningful protection which may likely translate directly into meaningful funding.  The US patent system has moved to a first inventor to file system.  In that system, the inventor has a year to file on the invention developed after it has been disclosed.  The rest of the world essentially requires absolute novelty.  So if any invention is disclosed prior to a patent filing, any international patent rights outside the US may be lost completely.   This is something worth considering when venturing into a start up weekend.

One aspect of any new development is the extent of patent protection available to the ultimate product or service.  If all international patent protection is lost by the close of a start up weekend as a result of disclosure, then the level of funding and any significant patent advantage may be lost.  It remains that anyone involved in a start up weekend should ask the appropriate questions regarding disclosure with the organizers and raise any concerns with the team as it could impact the protection and funding of what may be developed during the weekend.

Protecting your innovative developments is critical to any start up venture.  Having the right person to help you make that decision is important.  The Law Office of Kathleen Lynch PLLC is designed to help businesses such as yours keep ahead of the game.   The first telephone consultation is free.  Email us at