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Startups and their founders at an early stage have 1000’s of things in their mind. Hiring the right people, psyched out website, finding an office space (well, not everyone’s going to fit in the garage), and of course, getting customers (top most priority, may be); that is, unless a billionaire benefactor is willing to buy you out without even proof of concept. Intellectual Property (IP) is an ugly thing at a startup. It requires you to expend your two most valuable resources, your time and your money. However, to a Big Company, a startup’s IP is a thing of beauty. How can IP be worthless to a startup yet very worthwhile to Big company? Because IP has intrinsic value, but only in the right hands.

The average time required to obtain a patent is 36-to-40 months, during which there is no guarantee your adVENTURE will ultimately get the patent. Moreover, three years is a lifetime at a startup. Moreover, for a startup, generally, there is a cash crunch. One has to prioritize where each rupee is being spent. If you’re bootstrapping your business, the One to two Lakh INR you spend to file a patent application might seem like a lot.

Thus, if one asks a startup team, “What is this patent worth to you?”, the most likely answer is, “Not much”. This is actually the wrong question. A more appropriate question is, “What is this patent worth to a Big Company?” Thus, if a startup wants to attract investors, then, they would need to assure people that their idea won’t be snatched up by someone else. It gives them the assurance “hey, these guys are serious and they know exactly what they’re doing.”

Intellectual Property is what startups procrastinate (“Let me tackle that next week/next month/next millennium/when things calm down a bit). This is a big mistake. Groundwork for IP protection should start as early as possible.

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns or rejoice

because thorn bushes have roses.”

-Abraham Lincoln

Here is why:

  1. One might be spending a lot of money in research and development on something that isn’t patentable.
  2. Because you have not protected your IP rights sufficiently, you allow the third party or others to extract your IP away from you without you even knowing it!

When you file a patent, look around and do a search. See what other folks in the industry are doing. See what other patents are out there. Read the scholarly work around technology in your field and have some conversations with people in the industry. Your patent is a reflection of your R&D investment and your technological advantage, so it’s important to know exactly where that product differentiation is. An exhaustive search will ensure you have a strong patent, and hopefully help your patent issue faster. When you have something you believe has value, it’s worth the investment of time to develop and protect it.

Your patent is a reflection of your R&D investment and your technological advantage. IP protection is quickly becoming just as important and mature as registering your startup! When managing your IP portfolio, base your decisions on the fact that that the ultimate value of your IP will be determined by an acquisitive Big Company or the public capital markets, not its worth in the hands of a capital-challenged startup. It is all about perspective. Go the IP driven Innovation way!

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