How To Seek Investment Using Patents?

Seeking Investment using Patents Triangle IP

Seeking investment using patents? Is a patent enough?

Seeking Investment Using Patent, Look for Strategic Partner

Myth: Having a patent is enough to seek investment!

The Hard Truth: Sorry to break this to you but a patent alone cannot get you an investment. In the absence of a proven business, it does not make sense for the investor to risk his money.

When you seek investment the most common questions asked by a probable investor are:

  • What are your sales?
  • How much does it cost you to make that product?
  • What are your margins?
  • Is your product unique? Do you have a patent?
  • Why do you need the money?

The purpose of all these questions is to find out if their investment can earn them good returns or not.

If you have a revenue stream that can show sales, it’s really easy for investors to value a business. It’s just a function of some sort of multiple on earnings or some sort of anticipated growth in the market. Most investors are very well equipped to understand something like that.

But, when you don’t have a prototype, sales or anything like that and you simply have a patent seeking investment, it is a much more difficult task. Because a patent is only the right to exclude somebody from doing what’s covered in the patent. You have to convince somebody that doing it perhaps exclusively has value and because the patent has so much value that even licensing the patent shall fetch them a good amount of money.

Seeking Investment Using Patents | Look for Strategic Partner

Seeking Investment Using Patents | Look For A Strategic Partner

When you only have a patent, what you need is a strategic partner not an investor. Your strategic partner is a business which gets into an agreement with you where they are as much a partner to you as they are an investor. The usual investor is only interested in profits whereas a strategic partner will help manufacture products based on your patent.

Seeking Investment Using Patents | Look for Strategic Partner

Side Note | Investment Using Patents

In this article, we have only covered the strategic partnership for seeking investment using patents. There are other ways of monetizing a patent like selling the complete patent or mortgaging it with the bank etc. We shall be covering these and more such ways for seeking investments using patents in the series of articles about patent monetization. Shall you be interested in learning more about patent monetization, kindly fill the form below!

Steps To Find The Strategic Partner

  1. List down the companies that manufacture products in the space you have the patent in.
  2. Study these companies to find out:
    1. Which of these would be interested in having the next new feature in their product?
    2. Which of these companies is looking to differentiate itself from the competitors?
    3. Is there any company that is in the tight position that hasn’t had a good technology in a while?
    4. Which of these companies is an established player that always wants to stay on the top?
    5. There also is a possibility to find a supplier to the company that manufactures these products and might be interested in your idea.
  3. Select 2-3 companies from this list and propose the partnership to them to progress further.

Finding the information mentioned above is a difficult task and IP research firms shall be your best choice to help here.

IP Research Firm To Your Rescue

Curating the list of probable strategic partners shall require IP expertise. Best would be to hire an IP research firm

Here’s what IP firms shall do: 

  1. The IP research firm will try to understand your motivations behind creating the patent to familiarize themselves with your invention.
  2. The IP research firm shall then study the market players in the domain of your patent. By study we mean their product lines, patent portfolios, competitors, financial standing etc.
  3. Not just curating the list of strategic partners, the IP firm will be able to position your patent in such a way that prospective partners can identify its value. 

Impediment for Strategic Partner

“To invest into something that doesn’t exist is expensive.”

However, there is a way to justify this expense – ‘Exclusivity’.

Let’s take a look at the timeline below to understand this better.

Seeking Investment Using Patents | Offer Exclusivity To Strategic Partner

Once you get into a strategic partnership the partner shall help you with the development of the product. The average time for a patent to be developed into a product is around 18 months. That’s a conservative estimate. After the product is ready, the strategic partner should have unbridled access or exclusivity rights to sell the product for at least 2 years. Once the 2-year period is over, it is expected for the product to have broader demand and more competitors wanting a piece of it. 

After the period of exclusivity rights for the strategic partner is over, you can increase the exclusivity period by taking a fee. Or you can license the product and earn royalty. 

Reduce The Risk For The Strategic Partner

Having a patent is good, gradually you should progress on a path that minimizes the risk for probable partner or investor to venture in your idea. By progressing through each step from patent, to prototype, to beta-testing, to product, to sales you are minimizing the investment risk. Once you manage to get good sales, you shall need the investment to scale. And that shall be comparatively easier to get.

Conclusion:

If you have a patent and not a proven market for your product; seeking investment using patents becomes a herculean task. The best option is to look for a strategic partner. A partner who is in the same product line and can help you manufacture your product. At the same time, you need to convince that strategic partner that it shall also benefit hugely in this venture.

For finding and convincing a strategic partner, you shall need help from an IP research firm. The research firm shall create a report showing the unique value proposition of your patent. The firm shall also curate a list of probable strategic partners. You can select 2-3 from the list to work out the strategic partnership.  Offer exclusivity to convince for partnership.

While looking for a partner, keep progressing to minimize the investment risk; patent -> prototype -> beta-testing -> product-to-market -> sales.

With this we wish you all the very best to find the right partner!

Want to know more about IP Strategy?

6 Ways to Strengthen Your Patent Portfolio

6 Ways to Strengthen Your Patent Portfolio

The other day I was speaking to a portfolio manager at a large enterprise.  He was given a task to enhance the patent portfolio for the company. My first question to him was about the process of capturing ideas from inventors.

Me: “How do you capture the ideas and collaborate over the ideas to transform them into valuable IP?”

He: “We conduct certain brainstorming sessions, capture ideas in excel sheets and pursue as and when we feel a need for the same.”

In my experience of working for over 20 years with so many enterprises, the scenario is pretty much the same. Most enterprises use excel sheets, emails, docketing softwares (that’s like giving a factory when all that’s needed is a simple machine), or some other make-do softwares to capture ideas.

You Might Wonder What’s Wrong With Using Such Tools?

Well, in the absence of easy capturing and thorough vetting, a lot of things may happen which hurt the value of a patent portfolio.

  • Great ideas get lost while traveling amongst various stakeholders.
  • Weak ideas get pursued for filing a patent resulting in either a rejected patent or a low-value patent.
  • Filed/Granted patents are sometimes great in terms of innovation but do not have a market demand as the business team did not collaborate while persuasion.
  • Effort gets wasted on an idea which the company has already filed a patent on in the past by some other inventor.
  • Sometimes inventors get so busy with the progress of the invention that the idea gets completely missed out of the patenting process. Even worse, the product reaches the market without IP protection. And, competitors take full advantage of it.

Hence what’s needed is a defined process to capture ideas. A way to collaborate over ideas to conduct thorough internal vetting. A place where all the stakeholders from different arenas of a business and research can contribute. Thus making sure that only the finest ideas are pursued for filing patents. 

Strengthen Your Patent Portfolio Proactively

Strengthen Your Patent Portfolio Proactively

Besides this, a strong culture of innovation at the workplace and a time-to-time audit of the portfolio shall also be beneficial towards a valuable patent portfolio.

Here are 6 quick pointers that can help you strengthen your patent portfolio:

1./Effective Innovation Capturing

2. Thorough Vetting

3. Curating An Innovation Driven Culture

4. Getting Patent Experts Onboard

5. Pruning To Strengthen Your Patent Portfolio

6. Expediting Patenting Process

#1 Effective Innovation Capturing

It all starts with an idea. So, the inventor comes up with an idea. Maybe he shares the idea with you, maybe he does not. Maybe you review or maybe it gets slipped as you were too busy. And the inventor gets busy working on that idea totally forgetting about the protection it might need. Whether patent or trade secret or defensive publication. 

Now the product that gets created based on the inventor’s idea is revolutionary. And it reaches the public domain without any IP protection. It’s under the threat of fast followers. Companies out there who have resources and capital are always on a look for products which they can easily copy and sell for a lower cost. These guys also save on money that you spend on R&D and engineering of the product. Thus, grabbing the market share that your company deserved actually.

And the worst part is you cannot do anything about it. 

This necessitates to have a defined place to capture innovations and track their progress throughout the lifecycle.

Another thing that acts as a friction for inventors to disclose inventions and add them in the patent pipeline is: “long, non-intuitive invention disclosure forms with jargons that only attorneys understand”. At TriangleIP, we understand this friction and thus we have kept the idea capture form very simple in the TIP tool.  

An Easy Idea Form For Inventors | Strengthen Your Patent Portfolio

#2 Thorough Vetting

If you have a bunch of ideas coming in from different inventors; it’s very much possible that you might not have a budget to pursue them all for IP protection. So in order to choose which ideas to pursue, the ideas need to get evaluated from different aspects. You might wish to keep some ideas as trade secrets or give some to public domain with patent protection. Hence what’s needed here is a thorough vetting of ideas.

Thorough Internal vetting of Ideas | Strengthen Your Patent Portfolio

Innovation happens quite early in a process. Typically before you have any customer or market validation. Hence all that can be done is speculation on which ideas will generate revenue a few years down the line. It takes around 3-5 years to get patent protection for an invention.

However, one thing that helps you mitigate the risk and choose the best of ideas is to have it vetted by people from different streams; business, legal, engineering, strategy, etc.

Listed below are some important factors to consider to zero down on the ideas for patenting:

  • Strategic vision of the enterprise.
    • Alignment with a product line to have market dominance. 
      • Say there is a company that deals in smart refrigerators. It would want to have patents around advanced functions of refrigerator like: Ordering groceries based on the supplements about to finish in the refrigerator.
    • Market expansion across geographies.
    • Just for defensive purposes against probable lawsuits.
  • Relevance of technology to be patented in long term. Technologies go out of date as industries evolve. 
    • Example: Mobile phones have almost out-dated the landline phones in the last few years.  
  • Budget allocated towards IP.

#3 Curating An Innovation-Driven Work Culture.

“When failure is not an option, we can forget about creativity, learning and innovation. – Brene Brown”

Embracing failure is the key to have an innovation driven culture. Because the studies suggest that a significant percentage of innovations fail. The companies must have enough risk appetite (financially) to handle the failures. (Because somewhere there are chances of blockbuster success too).

And that’s not all, there are many other factors that can encourage or kill innovation culture at an enterprise.

The other day I was reading a book called “The Invincible Company” and in that, I came across a beautiful concept called “The Culture Map”. The culture map talked about the Enablers and Blockers of innovation at a company. It resonated really well with me. 

Innovation Culture Blockers:

  1. Lack of Innovation Strategy.
  2. General Fear of Failure.
  3. Bureaucracy slowing down innovation.
  4. Locked into Current Business Model.
  5. Lack of skills, knowledge and experience.

Innovation Culture Blockers | Strengthen Your Patent Portfolio

Innovation Culture Enablers

  1. Strategic guidance.
  2. Resource allocation.
  3. Innovation Tools.
  4. Legitimacy and Power.
  5. Skills development.

Innovation Culture Enablers | Strengthen Your Patent Portfolio

It would be beneficial to take a quick look inside your organization for these enablers and blockers. This shall further be helpful in creating an environment where innovation shall flourish for the organizational good.

#4 Getting Patent Experts Onboard:

Lack of expertise in drafting patents may result in rejection. Mentioned below are some of the top reasons for rejection of patent applications:

  • Improper and Insufficient description of the invention and how it works.
  • Lack of novelty.
  • Non-patentable subject matter; e.g. new use of a known substance.
  • Erroneous Writing: Issues with line numbers, reference numbers on drawings, or paragraph numbers.

If you don’t have in-house experts to write the patent, we suggest that you choose an IP firm that has the reputation and the experience to handle the end-to-end process. You need to have the right people on the job to draft the patent. Ensure that the one who is writing the patent has deep knowledge of the technology, has the right background, understands the fundamentals of a patent, and so on. 

#5 Pruning Patent Portfolio | Abandoning ‘Out-of-Date’ Patents

Let’s say you have a portfolio of many patents (50 or more), only a few of them would be worth a lot. The rest will guzzle your time, effort and money.

Maintenance fee alone can become a significant expense if there are many patents in a portfolio and for quite a long time. The snapshot below  shows the maintenance fee to be paid for patents at different time intervals.

Maintenance Fee USPTO| Patent Pruning | Strengthen Your Patent Portfolio | Abandoning Out-of-date Patents

The ability to know when to stop investing in bad IP assets is important to have a strong patent portfolio.

If you look carefully in your portfolio, you will find that there are patents that are areas in orphaned technology or where there is no commercial interest. Free up the budget allocated for it to work on an innovation that is more promising. A technology that was once highly used does not mean it is going to be relevant forever. Some of the patents might have run their utility. 

Let’s take a look at how IBM has pruned it’s patent portfolio over the last 2 decades. IBM has abandoned thousands of patents across T0, T1 and T2. This probably saved them millions of dollars and strengthened the patent portfolio.

IBM US Abandoned Patents by Pruning 1999-2020 | Strengthen Your Patent Portfolio

There can be many reasons for abandoning the patents:

We, at Triangle IP, are on the way to bring analytics to the TIP tool  that shall help the users identify hopelessly expensive cases.

  • Out-of-date technology as the industry evolved over the years.
  • Change in patent laws in different geographies.
  • No market presence, say you got patents in the UK but the business related to those patents never really took off in the UK. So, maintaining those patents does not make sense.

#6 Expediting the patenting process to be at the right time in the market.

There was a time when it took more than three to five years to get your patent up and running. Thankfully, that’s not the case anymore as you can easily get an expedited patent for a few thousand dollars in the US. While it might sound like a big number for a new startup, if it means that you can build your portfolio quicker, then it is wise to get that leverage for yourself. 

You can also watch this video by our co-founder where he explain portfolio management in a greater detail:

To Sum It Up:

Here is a quick recap of the pointers that shall help you progress towards a strong patent portfolio.

1..A well-defined business process to capture ideas and progress them to valuable IP (Intellectual Property). 

2. The process must provide for thorough vetting from strategy, market, legal, feasibility, financial aspects.

3. Curating an innovation culture by removing the blockers and supporting the enablers shall help your people to come up with more valuable inventions.

4. Ensure that your patent applications do not fall in the rejection bucket by hiring experts to write your patent applications.

5. Time-to-time pruning of the patent portfolio i.e. abandoning the patents (due for renewal) can help you strengthen the patent portfolio.

6. Expediting the patenting process for a few thousand dollars shall be a good tradeoff to be at the right place at the right time.

3 Ingredients of High-Quality Patent Application

Understanding and decoding a patent can feel like reading a foreign language. Patent claims are littered with legalese and hard to parse. We might rely on recommendations or go to an established firm to get a patent drafted. Sometimes, the tendency is also to get it done as inexpensively as possible.

However, when you can’t judge the quality, then you can’t make a sure decision. So, differentiating a good quality patent from a not so good quality patent may seem like a daunting task. But it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few tips and tricks that make this easy.

There are three ingredients of a high-quality patent application you must look for:

1. Substantive coverage

2. Simple language without ambiguity

3. Technical details: Visuals, Citations, and References

Substantive Coverage

Contrary to popular belief, in a patent application, less is not more. A detailed description of the invention along with alternative solutions is essential to ensure broad coverage. 

Good patents tend not to be short. A short patent may have 4-5 figures and are very high level. They have very little detail in them. A really good patent would have about 10-15 figures correspondingly with detail that can be added to the claims if needed. Hence, when you get a draft back, check whether it is 3 pages long or 15 pages long. Generally, the more said about the innovation, the more likely you are going to get a better coverage.  Description of alternative solutions to the underlying problem will allow claiming those later as your competition tries to design around your roadblocks.

Claims are a very important part of a patent application. It’s quite debatable on what the claims should look like. A long book could be written on the topic and still would not make things easier. As a broad rule a high-quality patent application must have claims directed to how your innovation uniquely solves the underlying problem that originally motivated the invention. Dependent claims can add details as possible fallback positions. 

However there are few red flags you can look for while evaluating the claims:

  • Claims should be written in such a way that others cannot design around that would create legal gaps.
  • Too narrow claims reduce infringement opportunities, but if they are too broad it is unlikely that they would be allowed.
  • Technology covered in claims must be relevant 10-15 years down the line as the industry evolves.

Substantive Coverage Example: Techniques In Transit Advertising

Let’s take a look at the claims of this high-quality  patent application on “Techniques in Transit Advertising” for example. It has 3 independent and 13 dependent claims with 26 figures.

In summary the patent is for a method to generate a request for an advertisement based on an identified ridership pattern of a user of a transit system:

Let’s take a look at claims.

The illustration above is from the patent AU2013262776B2 picked up using Google Patents Database.

Let’s take a look at the coverage of this claim:

  1. The claim talks about retrieving information to find the advertising preference for the rider of the transit system to tailor the experience.
  2. It also talks about the kind of information that shall be retrieved: entry point, exit point, duration of transit, time and location of plurality of such transactions so that the advertising is location relevant.
  3. The claim also covers the places for displaying the advertisement like faregates, kiosks, countertops, etc. for the rider.

Going through the complete claims set of this patent, gives a good idea of what claims should look like. The other claims cover a lot of possibilities around the invention like merchant proximity, information that can be displayed other than advertisements, type of media (machine readable) etc. to provide further detail and fallback positions.

The Heart Of The Invention

Once you have a draft patent application, the inventor(s) should read it critically. Has the draft properly detailed the heart of the invention (i.e., the key differentiator that enables your invention). Is the heart of the invention only mentioned in a cursory manner? Or, is it filled with creative detail and alternatives? Reading of the draft should surprise the inventor with its thoroughness and detail. This goes to show how much thinking has gone into describing the invention. Remember, the patent application is not a marketing tool. It doesn’t need to be flashy with marketing language. The purpose of a patent application is to get the patent granted. And for that, the application must be detailed and thorough. Failure to disclose the details of the invention amounts to a failure to describe how the inventor was in the possession of the claimed invention.

The patent office requires the inner workings and technical detail on how the heart or the core of the invention works.  It should provide the detail to allow another to make and use the invention.  The drafter should go in much deeper detail even if the product has not been built.

You should see that detail in the draft.

Think about what the most important technological thing is. For one, it should be captured in the claim. Because it is hard to parse the claims, ask the drafter, where it is mentioned in the claims. Then work your way back and see how much writing is there about that. A good patent application should have at least 2-3 pages of the core of the invention i.e. selling point of the innovation. 

Scope of Application

Does the draft speak to what is unique about that invention and define its scope too?

In addition to the uniqueness of the invention, the application must also have a wide scope to enable others to understand how it might be built. Ensure that it covers the existing and future scope of innovation as far out into the future as you might imagine. 

Simple Language

High-quality patent specifications are written in unambiguous language to be easily understood. The simple language also ensures that the ideas are not lost in translation.

This means the application must read like something familiar to you or any other similarly trained engineer, developer or scientist. If vague or confusing, it leads to potential attack down the road. If only the claims could be written to avoid the legalese, but the precision of their meaning requires the use of language that the courts have defined in their legal decisions.

Technical Details

A long, thoroughly drafted specification with thorough technical detail must have 

  • Block Diagrams
  • Citations
  • References

Block Diagrams

The visual impact of an application is almost as important as the written word. Make sure that the application includes pictographic representations of the invention – block diagrams, mechanical drawings, graphs, screenshots, etc.

Like ample description, the visuals should portray the innovation from different perspectives. For example the block diagram shown below is from a patent on “Techniques in Transit Advertising” (We have used the same patent as a reference throughout the post for easier understanding :)). The patent has 26 figures – a sign of high-quality patent application.

The illustration above is from the patent AU2013262776B2 (Google Patents Database).

Citations

A citation is a reference to prior art that’s relevant to a current patent application. 

There are two different types of citations 

Backward Citations

Backward citations are patents that are cited by a specific patent and forward citations are patents that cite a specific patent. In other words, these are earlier published documents that are publicly available before the filing date of a new patent application/prior art. 

Forward Citations

A good application must find and cite documents that 

  1. may anticipate the claimed invention, 
  2. or might be similar to the claimed invention and limit the scope of the patent protection, 
  3. or which generally reveal the state of the art of the technology.

These are forward citations. The number of forward citations a patent receives is often reflects on a patent’s significance.

The use of citations in a patent application shows the thoroughness of research. These can also act as markers to detail the scope of the invention. 

References 

A patent includes citations to other patents and literature that the examiner may find relevant to patentability (i.e., prior art). Adding references to the patent application makes it easier for the examiner to evaluate the same and indicates sophistication by the filer and generally indicates searching may have guided the draft.

They also add weight and credibility to the application, thereby increasing the chances of a grant.  The examiner will also search for references.  All the references will appear on the face of the patent application and more is better.

A good search prior to drafting helps define the novelty in the context of what others have done.  Claims should be drafted to broadly cover the innovation, but not step too far into the prior art.  Especially where your drafter may be unfamiliar with your technology, a good search can help familiarise them.

Tools To Evaluate Patent Quality

You might consider using a tool to evaluate patent quality. That is not a bad idea, but it has a downside. Let’s see how.

The quality of a patent encompass objective as well as subjective factors.

Objective factors are the ones that can be computed or measured by software. These include

  • Length of Specification
  • Number of claims
  • The number of words in the independent claims

Subjective factors are more traditional like:

  • Scope of the application
  • A correct and complete description of the heart of the innovation
  • How important innovation is to your business?

The tools available in the market can help you judge the quality of a patent defined by objective factors. It’s even possible to manipulate these objective factors. In fact, experienced and expert drafters can remarkably improve the quality of a patent. But for the subjective factors, human feedback is necessary.

In case you want to watch more about filing high quality patents, I suggest watching below video:

 

A Quick Recap

With this post we have tried to equip you with the ability to differentiate between a low and a high-quality patent application. To summarize presented below is a 7-points checklist for high-quality patent applications.

  1. High-quality patent specifications are written in unambiguous language to ensure that the ideas are not lost in translation.
  2. Claims should be directed to how your innovation uniquely solves the underlying problem that originally motivated the invention. Dependent claims can add details as possible fallback positions. 
  3. A high-quality patent application should have at least 2-3 pages of the core of the invention i.e. selling point of the innovation. Failure to disclose the details of the invention amounts to a failure to describe how the inventor was in the possession of the claimed invention.
  4. Make sure that the application includes pictographic representations of the invention – block diagrams, mechanical drawings, graphs, screenshots, etc. Like ample description, the visuals should portray the innovation from different perspectives.
  5. Numerous references in a  patent application make it easier for the examiner to evaluate the same and indicate sophistication by the filer. They also add weight and credibility to the application, thereby increasing the chances of a grant.
  6. A high-quality patent application covers the existing and future scope of innovation as far out into the future as you might imagine.
  7. The use of citations in a patent application shows the thoroughness of research. These can also act as markers to detail the scope of the invention. 

Conclusion

A well-drafted patent application, as expensive as it may be, is one of your best business investments. To ensure a high-quality patent application, hire the best. Read and re-read, keep editing, and amending and make the application thorough. In exchange for a limited monopoly, description and enablement are the “consideration” that you must provide to the public. 

To make the patent application even stronger, ask the following questions:

  1. Can this patent be adapted to the jurisdictions you would like to take it to in the future? Gain some insights here on the global patent portfolio strategy.
  2. How easy or difficult does the application make it to detect or prove infringement based on public information?
  3. Will competitors be able to understand the relevance of the patent?

Let’s keep that discussion for another day!

Wondering if your IP strategy is strong or not; read this “Is My IP Strategy Headed In Right Direction”!