IP Matters: 15 FAQs for Deep Tech Startups

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Why IP Matters?

Intellectual Property is the foundation upon which innovation thrives. It encompasses patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. Securing IP rights isn’t just about legal protection; it’s a strategic move to safeguard your innovations, establish market dominance, and attract potential investors.

Deep tech startups often have various questions and concerns regarding Intellectual Property (IP) due to the unique nature of their innovations. In this post, we will address some of the most common questions that may be raised:

What is Intellectual Property (IP)? 

IP refers to legal rights protecting creations of the mind, including inventions, designs, brand names, and creative works.

Why is IP important for startups? 

IP protection can attract investors, provide freedom to operate, establish market dominance, and protect your innovations against unauthorized use.

How do we identify our IP assets? 

Identify unique elements of your innovation, like inventions, designs, logos, or creative content.

What types of IP protection are available? 

Types include patents (inventions), trademarks (brands), copyrights (creative works), and trade secrets (confidential information).

When should we start thinking about IP protection? 

Begin considering IP protection in the earliest development stages of your technology. Avoid reinventing the wheel.

How do we conduct an IP landscape analysis? 

Research existing patents, technologies, and competitive landscapes related to your innovation.

How do we choose the right IP strategy for our business? 

Align your IP strategy with your business goals, whether it’s licensing, protection, or both.

Should we file for global or local patent protection? 

Decide based on your market expansion plans; consider international IP laws. Given the global reach of technology, you will almost always look for global or near-global protection.

How do we draft a strong patent application? 

Seek professional help to create clear, comprehensive, and well-crafted patent claims. Also, think patent portfolio rather than a single patent. To create valuable IP protection, a single patent is less effective than a portfolio of patents covering a specific area. It also increases the value.

What are the costs associated with IP protection? 

Costs vary but include application fees, maintenance fees, and legal expenses. Look at local incubation programs and/or government support; often they provide subsidies/grants to cover the cost of writing and filing patents.

How do we balance innovation disclosure and IP protection?  

Prioritize filing the patent(s); any disclosure before filing and without NDA will almost certainly invalidate your patent. Prioritize confidentiality agreements to safeguard your IP while discussing innovations.

What should we do if someone infringes on our IP? 

Consult legal experts to take appropriate actions against IP violators. However, as a startup, it is difficult, costly, and a major distraction to pursue your patent protection into court. Think your strategy through and make a budget. Settling with royalties is almost always the best solution.

How can we keep track of IP developments in our industry?

Monitor industry trends, competitor activities, and changes in IP laws. To stay at arm’s length it is sometimes recommended to use an external party to perform a detailed IP search and analysis.

What role does IP play in attracting investors and partners?

A strong IP portfolio can make your startup more appealing to potential investors and collaborators. Some investors have made it a prerequisite to have your IP properly patented before they invest.

Can we change our IP strategy as our startup grows? 

Yes, adapt your IP strategy to align with evolving business goals and innovations. However, backtracking older innovations with patent applications can be tricky. Make sure that your engineers keep logs and date their pages so that in case you do have to go to court, you have proof. There are dedicated log books that you can purchase for your engineers if you are really serious about your IP.

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