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The Foundation of Startups: Protecting Innovative Ideas Legally


he concept of a startup is founded on new ideas that stem from either dreams or needs. The phrase “I have an idea” actually symbolizes the birth of a new startup project. However, there is often a great deal of confusion when it comes to legally protecting these ideas. Many startups are unsure which protection path to choose, whether it’s trademarks, patents, or copyrights. Therefore, I wanted to write a guiding article on intellectual and industrial property protection methods for startup projects.

Firstly, an idea that exists only in your mind is not protected in any way under Turkish law. However, when this idea is realized and turns into an invention, a product, or software, it can be protected. In this regard, we refer to the Industrial Property Law and the Law on Intellectual and Artistic Works.

When your ideas come to life as software or computer programs, they are considered “works” under the Law on Intellectual and Artistic Works and can be protected by copyright if registered. Databases, source codes, and program flow related to software or computer programs fall under copyright protection. However, if this software or computer program is used to operate a machine or an industrial product, it can also be protected by a patent. For example, a computer program that adjusts the temperature of an air conditioner can be protected by copyright, while a computer program that operates and controls the air conditioner can be protected by a patent.

If your ideas come to life as products with innovations beyond known technology, they are protected by patent registration under the Industrial Property Law. To benefit from patent protection, your invention must be industrially applicable, meaning it can be produced. Therefore, discoveries, scientific theories, or mathematical methods cannot benefit from patent protection. An excellent example is the inverted ketchup bottle. While the idea of an inverted bottle is a simple innovation, it can benefit from patent protection because it is industrially applicable.

Another aspect of patent protection is utility model protection. If your ideas do not go beyond known technology but create a new product from a different perspective, and this product can be applied in industry, it can be protected by utility model registration. Utility models are seen as a faster and simpler way compared to patents. However, the protection period with utility models is shorter than patents. For example, a lidded version of a product may not meet the criteria for exceeding known technology, but it can serve as an example for utility model protection.

If your ideas manifest as decorations on products or services, protection can be obtained through industrial design registration, which covers the appearance of a product arising from features such as lines, shapes, forms, colors, materials, or surface textures. Once again, the condition is that the design must be new, distinctive, and applicable in industry. Patterns on carpets and kilims are some of the most well-known examples of industrial designs.

The names of the products or services, the shapes, colors, letters, numbers, or the shapes of goods and packaging, can be protected under trademark registration. To register a word or design as a trademark, it must be distinctive and not previously registered as a trademark for similar products or services. Names or marks that indicate the type, variety, quality, quantity, purpose, or value of goods and services cannot be registered as trademarks. Trademark registration is crucial in all areas of commercial life, and it provides broad protection to trademark owners. In fact, even in the domain of internet domain names, where the “first come, first served” principle applies, trademark registration rights can be enforced against unauthorized use.

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