Is there such a thing as "legal insurance" available to startups?


1

As some kind of a follow-up of my previous question about trademark, I am curious to know about legal risks and protection options, particularly in Europe.

As far as I can see, one of the greatest fears and potential risks of any young startup is being sued by a bigger company (for example, for trademark infringement, violating the big company's patent rights). The second largest might be fear of the cost of fighting a legal battle yourself, e.g. to protect some asset, innovation or a brand name/mark.

I'm still not sure whether those fears and risks are substantiated and justified or rather anecdotal and result from quite a bit of scaremongering. There's also the human element, a single horror story from one company gets much more attention than all the 'no-news' from the majority of companies who never experience anything remotely similar.

If I were to worry about my house being burgled or set fire to, I would easily find home-owner insurance, and the insurance company would do the estimation of risk for me and tell me the fee for having this piece of mind (also taking into account the value of my possessions). In Germany, there is quite a common insurance for 3rd party liability for individuals.

Are there any equivalent insurance options for startups when it comes to legal risks and associated fees? Alternatively, or in addition, Is there a way to more accurately estimate this risk? (e.g. are there any statistics on how many startups get into a legal dispute and the average cost of such...)

Insurance Startup Costs Legal Statistics

asked Apr 23 '12 at 17:18
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Yoav Aner
318 points
  • Asking for protection from "legal risks" is awfully broad. At best, users are only left guessing what will actually help you (unless you can come up with a very specific liability you are trying to protect against) and worse, can be more harmful without complete information. – Robert Cartaino 8 years ago
  • I think I was rather clear about the risks: being sued by a bigger company and having to fight a legal battle to protect your own interest. I was also under the impression that there *are* some forms of legal protection insurance policies etc. Part of the reason for asking the question is to try to identify those legal risks. Perhaps broad, but I don't see what's so wrong with this question that it needs to be closed. I've updated the question to make things clearer hopefully. – Yoav Aner 8 years ago
  • Yoav: Asking if there's such a thing as "legal insurance" might actually be interesting... and answerable. I've edited the title, if that's what you are asking. But asking how to be protected from being sued by a larger company is more discussion and chat room that suitable for this type of Q&A. – Robert Cartaino 8 years ago
  • I re-opened your quesition. – Robert Cartaino 8 years ago
  • Thanks @RobertCartaino. Much Appreciated. I've made some further edits and am happy to clarify as necessary. It seems clear to me, but of course your feedback helps focus the question! – Yoav Aner 8 years ago

3 Answers


1

I don't know about in Europe, but in Australia we have two core types of insurance that a business would take out:

  1. Public Liability insurance. This generally covers you for accidents that happen at your workplace.
  2. Professional indemnity insurance. This covers you more for the types of actions you mention, however as with any type of insurance, you have to read the fine print to know what you are covered for.

Even with those in place, you would realistically only get coverage for a certain amount (ie. 5 million dollars), so if you were really getting sued significantly, it may not be enough coverage.

Also based on Australian law, if you have a proper company set up, this affords you some protection over your personal assets in the case of something going wrong. Effectively the company gets sued and not you personally.

Disclaimer: This is based on Australia, so you would need to find equivalents for your county. I am not a lawyer, this is based on my interpretation of information I have received from legal advice. Hopefully this gives you some areas to look into, but you need to research thoroughly as the law is a tricky thing.

answered Apr 24 '12 at 10:46
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Joel Friedlaender
5,007 points
  • Thanks Joel for another good answer. I am aware of those insurance from the UK and they sound very similar. I somehow have a feeling that the situation in Germany/Rest of the EU might be slightly different though. p.s. no need for the Disclaimer. I'm not going to sue you. Or actually... (thinking what mr. burns would do) ;-) – Yoav Aner 8 years ago
  • It's okay, I have professional indemnity insurance :) – Joel Friedlaender 8 years ago

1

Insurance is available for at least some intellectual property risks. See Intellectual Property Insurance: What Lawyers Need to Know.

However, it may be that you overestimate the risk to a startup of intellectual property suits. Paul Graham tells startups not to worry about patent litigation : suits are an expensive distraction for other startups and big companies compete by locking competitors out of their sales channels and are more likely to buy a startup than sue it.

answered Apr 24 '12 at 12:03
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Naw
46 points
  • Thanks for the info and links. Are you aware of any particular insurance providers or policies that cover EU/Germany in particular? – Yoav Aner 8 years ago

1

There is such a thing as legal expense insurance. They will pay the biggest chunk of lawyers fee is you get sued. Professional liability insurance is available for select and well understood professions. However a general business liability insurance is just way too broad and way too unpredictable for anyone to insure.

answered Apr 25 '12 at 02:20
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Alexandre H. Tremblay
186 points
  • Thanks for this Alexandre! – Yoav Aner 8 years ago

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