World Intellectual Property Day: 5 intellectual property questions and answers for technology startups
As startups grow and evolve, so should their intellectual property strategy. Effective IP protection can bring a substantial business return, attracting investors and increasing market value. The World Intellectual Property Day, celebrated annually on 26 April, seeks to demonstrate how the IP system fosters not only music, arts and entertainments, but also all technological innovations that help to shape the world. Small and medium-sized enterprises take centre stage at World IP Day 2021. This year's celebration highlights the importance of startups for growth in a post-pandemic world with the theme "IP and SMEs: Taking your ideas to market." With this motto in mind, we sat down with the coach and expert from the EIC Community Training on IPR, Aleardo Furlani, to gather 5 intellectual property questions and answers for technology startups.
1 - What are the most common wrong assumptions you see from startups/small business owners regarding intellectual property (IP)?
The most common wrong assumption is that IP is a "do it yourself" business that does not require external support. Others also think that IP's impact on the company's overall positioning value is limited and doesn't worth the investment.
2- How can a startup know whether its invention is new and different from anything that exists and is qualified to be patented? And what are the main advantages of getting a patent?
Professional search and analysis services pave the way to an objective and fast valuation of the patentability of an invention and its relative competitive novelty positioning on a regional or global scene. Anteriority analysis, patent landscape and freedom to operate analysis are the most known tools. In addition, patent benchmarking and valent potential value analysis can also show the advantages of patenting and how inventions can be a significant value driver to position the company towards clients and investors.
3 - When is the right time for a startup to consider IP protection? What steps should be taken into account before a startup registers its product for a patent
The overall value proposition of a startup is not based just on patents. The entire bulk of formal (including trademarks, design) and informal (trade secrets, confidential information, know-how) intellectual property assets that a company can access should be considered a value driver. The IPR assessment and the IP market positioning of the startup should be activated from the very early stage - starting from TRL 3-4 onwards- and steadily continue along the company's growth process.
4 - How can a business founder talk safely to an investor or business partner without an NDA?
Signing an NDA is an advisable measure. However, it is not the key factor in protecting the IP. Sometimes founders tend to overestimate the value of an NDA and sometimes can be perceived by the counterpart as a barrier to negotiating, especially when the NDA is very complex and takes a long time to be analysed. It is important not to disclose confidential information and trade secret, even if this is allowed by an NDA, and do not disclose any formal IP before the filing.
5 - What does the process of registering for a patent look like? Where should small business owners start?
It is important to consider the technology readiness (TRL scale) as an effective tool to elaborate its IP development plan of action. TRL 1 to 4 is helpful to obtain valuable information on taking IP management to the next level. However, IPR strategy design should be considered all along the TRL scale until level 8 -9. This will guide a business to identify and, where relevant, protect, maintain, and exploit a company's tangible and intangible assets. The Freedom to Operate Search will start at the later stage of TRL 8. To assess that the technology developed will not infringe upon any other valid intellectual property rights in the referenced markets. In other words, the FTO search will provide a risk assessment of whether the organisation should license the technology, or modify the invention or the approach, or even in some cases, stop further operation of the project. At the same level of TRL stages, IPR advisory on filing and registering can also support a company to understand the procedures and steps to be taken for filing their patents. Also, getting strategic advice to licensing out technology is a good way to publicise the technology better and improve the invention at the early stage of development of the technology level 3 up until level 8.
In little over a week, 7 May to be precise, the European Innovation Council will gather 40 EIC-funded startups for a Community Training on IP rights. To explore other opportunities, keep an eye on our events page.