Developing a solid intellectual property (IP) strategy is essential for emerging companies preparing for market entrance. Various forms of IP can usually be found in company’s portfolio and identifying these assets based on business goals and assumed future opportunities are at the core of that strategy. The following are a few tips to keep in mind to improve your IP strategy for startups.
Questions to think about when establishing an initial IP strategy:
- Who owns the fundamental technology in your space – i.e. who are the key organizations filing and buying patents in your market segment and what are they working on?
- Where are the opportunities for strategic growth, investment, or licensing within your field?
- How rapidly is new innovation taking place in your space?
- Where are the new and emerging technologies being developed in your space?
- Which patents are the most valuable for your products?
- Do your customers value IP to demonstrate they are purchasing innovative products?
An IP strategy should support long-term product development goals, not just ad-hoc innovations. Also remember, the value of any given patent is not absolute, but relative to competitor patent filings. Protect your assets by clearly establishing IP ownership at the start of your business venture.
Public Disclosure. When a startup team has created a breakthrough product or technology, the natural impulse is to go out and tell the whole world. Not a smart move if careless public disclosure results in loss of rights under patent law because the underlining IP was not protected beforehand. It is a good idea to require non-disclosure agreements (NDA’s) from employees within the startup, and from contractors outside the operation as well. All members of the startup team should be clear on the importance of NDA’s.
An IP asset can be a new technology, device, or underlying code. And, it can also be a customer list, data analytics, or special expertise. In either case, assets, especially intangible assets, first have to be identified. For a small startup with one new technology, this can be relatively simple. Your attorney will guide you through the process, and ensure that you have the multiple layers of protection needed, especially in the critical early stages of development.
Taking a strategic perspective forces companies to think broadly and consider not just their technology but their business goals and the larger competitive space in creating a portfolio. Intellectual property is a critical asset for early-stage technology companies. Companies should continuously evaluate their IP strategy in light of changing business goals and conduct patent searches to validate their technology and assess the strength and vulnerabilities of their competitors’ portfolio.
An IP strategy for startups is just one step in effectively managing your intellectual property. Our Ultimate Startup Toolkit will help you really take control of your IP.