Startups tend to lack the in-depth knowledge needed to tap the full potential of patents. Understanding the actual reasons for patenting and how to utilize patents, commonly remains on a rather basic level. Simultaneously, typical patent professionals and patent agencies still offer few business-oriented patent utilization services.
A startup – an early-stage company with a focus on growth – is often a one-product company focusing most of its energy on that single product (be it a product or a service). Simultaneously, startups typically have to cope with limited resources, both personnel and money-wise.
Startups don’t usually have resources to develop big patent portfolios with proactive licensing strategies as more established companies with in-house IP managers often have. However, a startup company may still create a structured patent strategy that suits their needs and resources. By understanding patent utilization opportunities and the overall patent prosecution process, a company will be able to not only protect their technology but also extract maximum value from their patents.
A patent strategy framework, that we have developed for startup companies, is divided into four main sections:
- business strategy & long-term vision,
- patent landscaping,
- filing strategy, and
These four sections are further divided into two parts, obligatory and secondary, in accordance with importance. Due to the scarcity of resources, expanding the patent portfolio needs to be under even more scrutiny than in an established company. Thus, the filing strategy and utilization sections are given secondary status. It is essential for any company to grasp the patenting field they are operating in. Therefore, the first two of the mentioned sections in the framework are given the obligatory status.
We have also noticed the importance of systematic planning. Therefore, as a support mechanism for the four main sections, our framework also has a fifth part that takes into consideration both cost and responsibility aspects. As startup teams many times lack people with IP experience, it is even more vital for a successful patent strategy to have the responsible person(s) pointed out.
By having the long-term vision and business strategy figured out and by conducting a thorough patent landscape study, a startup company will be able to make a preliminary selection of the essential countries in which they are interested to obtain a patent. Consequently, a budgetary cost plan may be laid out to assist in budgeting, decision-making and the seeking of financing.
As the value of IPs constitute a significant part of a startup’s potential value in business and technology, a solid patent strategy needs to be in place for future steps ahead – be it strategic planning, technology transfer, licensing or the sale of the company. IP monetization has become an increasingly important way of efficiently using companies’ assets and innovation potential. For this reason, reconfiguration and strategic tools are needed for reaching full potential and being able to tackle the patent thickets of the markets.
Startups should put emphasis on being efficient and smart in using their limited resources to the right IP activities with a goal that is in line with their business. By learning how to extract additional value from patents in an efficient way, startups are able to gain competitive advantage over their more established counterparts.
Our framework is most suitable for being carried out by a person with knowledge in both technology and business. Importantly, the person utilizing the framework needs to be familiar with the specific branch of technology to which the business pertains. Without sufficient knowledge of patents, technology and business the framework is of very little value. The framework is at its best when carried out as a joint effort by a business-oriented patent professional and the startup team.
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