Know-how is the only business asset of most startups - not protecting it is a business mistake

Why I’m writing a book about startup patent strategy

I’m a European patent attorney. And I was frustrated.

Over the years, countless entrepreneurs came to me with a feeling that they need some form of protection for their innovation – be it their disruptive business model or their cool new technology, product or service concept. Many got in contact with me after a potential investor had asked them some tough questions about their intellectual property and patent strategy.

But in many instances it was simply too late. Too late because the founders had already advertised every detail of their innovation in public pitch competitions, in the marketing of their Minimum Viable Product, in open talks with development partners, or straight out on the Internet. What they did not know – or knowingly ignored at the time of publishing their innovation – was that this regularly kills any chance of patent protection later on.

I believe the root cause for this goes back to three common misconceptions:

#1 “Patents are a legal issue. Let’s deal with it when it occurs”

Some entrepreneurs seem to look at intellectual property purely as a legal issue. As such, they tend to ignore it until a problem occurs and then seek advice from a lawyer.

Of course, intellectual property protection has a legal component. But what most entrepreneurs do not realize is that patents, trademarks, and the like are primarily business assets. Not having a plan to capture, manage and use these assets is a recipe for failing to maximize their value. This is a business mistake.

The Startup Patent Toolbox***
This is an excerpt from my book “The Startup Patent Toolbox”. I invite you to grab a free copy!
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#2 “Patents do not combine with today’s sharing economy”

Another misconception I come across frequently is that some founders think seeking patent protection is somewhat shady and not compatible with the nowadays so popular sharing economy. Also this is a huge business mistake.

Firstly, because patents can be extremely useful in various “peaceful” ways other than their aggressive component – ways I will cover in this book. Secondly, because simply ignoring the topic does not make the company immune against being forced out of business based on its competitor’s patents.

#3 “Patents take too long and cost too much”

Lastly, another recurring theme is that it takes to long to get patents and that they are anyway too expensive for startups. Yes, it is true that building a patent portfolio takes time and money.

But the truth is that patents – besides their immediate benefits – will become very relevant once the startup successfully survived the first three or four years, and that building the foundation early on is critical. The trick is to know what has to be done when and how the substantial costs can be postponed until the necessary budget is available. Ignoring these things is – you guessed it – a business mistake.

But beware, this book is not for everyone

I’m not a missionary. If you prefer to take your business decisions based on dogmatic viewpoints (“the patent system is broken”, “patents stifle innovation”…), please go ahead. If your business model is to give away your competitive edge for free without preparing for the shark tank that most industries are, please close this book and have your try.

The Startup Patent Toolbox***
This is an excerpt from my book “The Startup Patent Toolbox”. I invite you to grab a free copy!
***

Also, you should know that intellectual property rights, and especially patents, are by no means a guarantee for business success. A strong patent will not turn a crappy product that solves a problem no customer cares about into a commercial success.

Instead, patents need a business with the potential for success as a foundation to build upon. Then, patents can have a tremendous return on investment. They can help your company attract funding, enlarge its competitive edge, open up additional revenue channels, prepare your exit strategy, and avoid legal problems down the line.

Let’s begin the ride

So, if you are a serious European entrepreneur, this book will give you three things:

  1. A working knowledge of the mechanics of intellectual property. This helps you understand the system and its benefits and avoid the typical mistakes many founders make in the early startup phases.
  2. A concrete process for capturing, prioritizing, protecting and using your innovation assets. The plan is accompanied by guidelines, templates and tools for your practical use. This enables you to set up your company’s innovation plan as the foundation for a sustainable innovation strategy.
  3. A patent filing strategy that is aligned with the particular needs of lean startups. I developed this strategy because I realized that many of the classic intellectual property strategies do not entirely fit the (lean) startup way of building businesses, particularly the tight budget in the early stages, the high business and technology risk and the need for early market validation.

Also, after you have worked through this book, you and I will be able to quickly reach a common understanding of the issues, avoid false expectations and skip any talking at cross purposes. This allows me to work more streamlined for you and will ultimately save you money.

Please read this book and take action. If you do, I promise that you will maximize the business value of your startup’s most important resource: its innovation potential.

And you now also have a trusted IP professional to ask for advice along the way. Just drop me an email – ideally before things get too urgent 😉

The Startup Patent Toolbox***
This is an excerpt from my book “The Startup Patent Toolbox”. I invite you to grab a free copy!
***

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