3 questions – 3 answers – from theory to practice with Prof. Dr. Gerrit Horstmeier

Today with HFU Business School Professor Gerrit Horstmeier on the topic
What start-ups can do to protect their know how successfully.

Prof. Dr. Gerrit Horstmeier, M.M. has been Professor at the Faculty of Economics at Furtwangen University since 2001. Prior to this, the lawyer worked in various sectors, including as head of the legal department of the Krombacher brewery, head of legal & personnel at SEIKO Europe and RAG Saarberg, as well as managing director of Saarberg-Hölter-Umwelttechnik and most recently TOTAL Mineralöl. His teaching areas include international business law, labour law and business ethics.

1) As a start-up company, should I protect my know-how, and if so, how?

Prof. Dr. Gerrit Horstmeier If start-ups want to grow their business successfully, there is no way around protecting their know-how. It does not matter whether a new technical invention or a new business model is the basis of a start-up. Own, registered know-how leads to an increase in the value of the start-up and also enables to scale the business model, for example by licensing the know-how. Therefore, it must be checked in each case what the specific new idea of the start-up consists of. Then those elements have to be identified, which can be secured as individualizable rights of intellectual property. This can certainly result in several rights of intellectual property.

2) What rights of intellectual property are there?

Prof. Dr. Gerrit Horstmeier Patents and utility models are available for technical inventions. Creative product designs can be protected as individual, new designs. Brands, product names and designations are registered as trademarks. These property rights can be applied for registered at official patent and trademark administrations. A different, but not registrable property right is a copyright, which is particularly relevant for software.

3) What instruments do I have to enforce property rights?

Prof. Dr. Gerrit Horstmeier If the start-up founder owns such an intellectual property right, he can defend himself against copycats and plagiarists. Even in court, this happens rather quickly by an immediate injunction. But this protection starts much earlier, however, and the founder has to be active during the development phase. On the one hand, this begins with the indispensable documentation. Then the group of people to whom the know-how has to be disclosed must be kept as small as possible. These persons should be contractually obliged to keep the disclosed know-how secret. The own behavior is the most effective tool for start-ups to secure their own know-how and to prevent it from running out.



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