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?

Does My Company Need A Global Patent Portfolio Strategy?

WHEN IS THE RIGHT TIME TO THINK ABOUT GLOBAL PATENT PORTFOLIO STRATEGY

A global patent portfolio strategy depends on the vision of the enterprise. The three main considerations are:

  1. Market Expansion in Different Geographies.
  2. Patenting Costs Vs Profits.
  3. Studying Competitor Markets.

There is a golden rule for successful global patent portfolio strategy:

Pick key markets that lock up at least 60% of the future revenues for the product as inexpensively as possible. 

Filing patents is an expensive affair. Let’s say, you wish to get patent protection on your product in China. It shall cost you somewhere between 20000 to 50000 USD. This cost involves not just filing but also patent attorney expenses, professional drawing expenses, patent office expenses, government taxes, etc. Say you wish to expand your product line in China, the IP investment shall make sense only if there is a good demand for that product in China. Otherwise, spending so much money without significant returns is going to hurt you.

Here is how you can create a global patent portfolio strategy without breaking your bank: 

Market Expansion in Different Geographies

Why do you need to file patents outside the country? The answer to this is simple:  you may be making profits in those areas. Your product may have a market outside the country and you plan to expand in those markets.

If you own the IP rights for a product only in the US, you can not stop anyone else in the rest of the world from making that product. You need to apply for patents in each country. Multi-country protection is possible in places like Europe, Africa and Russia.

But, do you need IP protection in each of the 195 countries in the world? 

No, there is no need to protect your IP in countries that might not have potential customers. 

Credits: Pexels

Patenting Costs Vs Profits

Before you make a decision, it would be great to do little math because the different costs involved in patent protection add up real quick and the sums become humongous. To give you a quick idea, in the US, the costs for filing a utility patent ranges anywhere between $8,000 and $15,000. Under the Euro-Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), the cost of filing a patent is 47,000 Euros and it is valid in eight European countries. In India, the cost of drafting a patent application costs anywhere from $350 and above. You can know more about patent filing costs in more countries by using this link here. The more countries you look for protection in, the costlier it gets. 

Unless these costs can be covered up with the huge market potential in those countries, you should think hard before spending money in procuring patent protection there. If you think that stopping your competitors from being able to sell a similar product will add to your bottom line, then do go ahead with protecting your IP. The question to ask yourself is would you be able to recoup the money and make a profit if you sell in this market?

Look to see where you are going to make money and how the market is going to evolve over the term of the patent. The market landscape keeps changing. Although a patent protects you for 20 years, things keep evolving much more rapidly. You need to have a pulse of where the market is heading, the costs associated with IP protection, and your own objectives.

Studying Competitor Markets

Apart from having a patent in the country that you operate, you should also identify what your competitors are up to. A local competitor might be making huge money by selling a product like yours in another country. But you cannot stop them as you do not have any IP protection in that country. You need to protect your IP assets in that country to either stop them or license your technology. 

For example, you have a patent in the United States and you are only doing business there, but your competitor makes most of their money in Mexico. Picking up a patent battle with them in the United States may not be harmful to them, hence you would want to expand in Mexico and assert your patent there.

Does this make you worried about the IP expenses in various countries? Here’s the good news: you don’t have to protect your IP in all the countries in the world. That would be a frivolous waste of money, time, and resources. All you need to do is ‘make it painful enough so that the competition doesn’t want to introduce a competing product.’ Identify the key markets and lock these markets. The following section tells you how.

Lock key markets (Rule of Thumb)

Sometimes the thing to consider is that you get a broader protection in the countries you file in. For example you have a big patent portfolio in the United States. The likelihood that a competitor can launch a really similar product and sell only in Canada (which has only 1/6th of the population of the United States) is very less as some of the products require a lot of investment before you can make money in a country. Hence, the economics of protecting the market and building the market may not be there in Canada. So if some of the profits can not spill to the United States, it would be very difficult to build out the North America market. Thus, the United States becomes one of the key markets.

Similarly, there are key markets in Europe such as France, Germany and the UK. Once you get a protection in these countries, there is very less likelihood that a competitor is going to release a product in the other smaller jurisdictions such as Monaco, Liechtenstein. Hence, you don’t need to file in all jurisdictions. All you need to do is ‘make it painful enough so that the competition doesn’t want to introduce a competing product.’ 

For example, you have a strong patent portfolio built out in Germany. Because in Europe, the borders are very porous and Germany is a big market, any patent asserted in Germany is going to be very painful to your competitor, who might have wanted to sell a similar product. Most of the retailers, and sales channels are all across Europe, and a lot of retailers would not want to sell a product only in one part of Europe and not in the other (as it makes the logistics very difficult). Hence, if you are asserting a patent in one of the key markets in Europe, which is Germany, the competition may have to shut doors to all of Europe. 

While a world-dominion for your IP protection might sound fancy, it will certainly not be the smartest move in your playbook. Here’s what we would suggest to you:

Pick key markets which will lock up at least 60% of the future revenues for the product as inexpensively as possible. 

Let’s say you are in the electronics and software space, just by protecting your IP in Europe, USA, and a few Asian countries, such as China, you can lock up most of the market for many products. Getting coverage in these jurisdictions will cost you roughly $100,000. (Disclaimer: The rates of getting your IP protected also depends on the kind of patent. The $100,000 number is approximate for basic IP protection.) By protecting your product in these markets, you leave your competitor high and dry as they are forced to compete in secondary markets. Would that even be worthwhile for them? Chances are high that they may end up focusing on a different product which will make financial sense for them. 

While some companies might look at rich markets, there are industries where a huge population is appealing when they sell low-cost items. Drug manufacturers might prefer to go by headcount when it comes to deciding the countries that can be a part of the 60%. 

Hence, figure out what the revenue model for your product is, identify the key markets and lock 60% of your market as inexpensively as possible.

Conclusion

Protecting your IP can be a tricky business in itself. Coming up with a strategy to protect it from competitors in countries where your IP is not protected deserves a lot of your time and effort. Having the right strategy in place with an IP Consulting firm can save your firm big money. Hire an experienced IP attorney to help create a global patent portfolio strategy.

Is My IP Strategy Headed in the Right Direction?

Triangle IP - Is my IP strategy headed in right direction?

As a fledgling company looking to make your mark, you have to be defensive. The lawsuits are quite a costly affair and can certainly be lethal. You will find yourself being pushed into bankruptcy even before you can really get going. Patents are expensive. But the protection that a strong patent portfolio can give your company is unmatched. 

Seek first to understand, then to be patented 

Building your own patent strategy is personal to your business and its goals. It largely depends on your company’s strategic vision. But it is also important to understand your competition. Possessing competitive intelligence is key. To build an effective patent strategy, understand your market and your competition.  If you are entering a market space that is patent heavy, investors will be expecting you to have patents as well. But how many do you need? And where should you start? 

Start from the very beginning 

A good place to start is Google Patents. Let’s say you are a start-up that’s entering the marketplace with a product that is a virtual assistant. You might suspect that in the digital age, this is a heavily patented space. A simple search on Google Patents will list for you the details of many patents in the space. You will find details including who are the inventors and owners along with many similar patents. The free platform provides a comprehensive coverage of every patent. The status of filing, litigation (if any), the office it has been filed in, etc. is all available to anyone. ​Spend a little more time studying the competitor innovation along with their filing their habits in the patent world. This will help you build competitive intelligence as you pursue your own patent portfolio. 

 Without patent(s) to protect the innovation in your product, you will be a pigeon amongst cats. Without patent protection as a defense, you are exposing yourself to attack. This can be in the form of infringement suits or threats that scare away your customers. Competitors will look to shake confidence in your investors or slow you down before your IPO. Or worse still, look to remove you from the marketplace before you reap its rewards. 

Before you build your portfolio to protect your company, go back to the drawing board. Relook at your vision for your startup and draw a blueprint of your product’s journey as it navigates past the competition. Mark out where you want to be in the next six months, year, five years, and then long term. Once you have the answers to those questions is when you choose which patents you want to pursue.  

Build a Portfolio; Ward off Litigation 

Did you know you are less likely to be sued with a strong patent portfolio than without it? With a patent portfolio, you are reducing the risk of the patent suit out of fear you would countersue. You are also giving yourself a chance to go on the offensive when you need to.

Sharks (large companies with many patents) are always on the lookout for little fish (start-ups with little to no patents). By not having patent protection, you are more likely to lose a patent lawsuit. The reason is not only statistical but logical. You become an easy target to go after as there is little chance of countersuit and even if unsuccessful, a small company can be bled out with the extraordinary litigation costs.

But patents are an expensive affair. (Read this to know everything about costs of IP in the US and this to know how to make your money work for you.) Choosing the right patents to have is an important part of competitive intelligence. If your portfolio is too small there is more risk of losing a patent battle. Your portfolio should be commensurate to your position/station in the marketplace. Having a portfolio that has about half the number of patents as compared to a competitor twice the size is a good rule of thumb. Being in this position will allow you to counter-sue. When the competition knows that it is susceptible to a countersuit, it is less likely to take you to court.  

In Sum, Strategy First

A strong patent portfolio doesn’t always mean having a ton of patents attached to your name. A strong patent portfolio is something that is unique to your company’s innovation. It is something you think about as much as you think about your product. Having the right patents is as important as having the right product while procuring patents to match your growth timelines. This can be difficult with all the distraction that product development and new releases can bring.

Having a strategy and growing your portfolio along with your product success will strengthen your market dominance. Seek professional advice in building your patent strategy. That way, you stand to make the most of your investment. We’ve got Google’s most asked patent questions answered here for you already! Patents can be your biggest business weapon and most attractive assets. They attract investments when your fledgling product gains market while protecting you when you grow. So choose wisely, build well. 

On that note, from us to you – Happy Patenting!

Patents Vs. Trade Secrets: Which Way To Go?

Patents vs Tradesecrets which way to go

Patents Vs Trade Secrets | Choose Wisely!

‘Patents are expensive, why don’t we just trade secret everything?’ If this is a thought and cost cutting is something you’re looking to do, read on. It is no secret that investing in patents is an expensive affair. At the same time, a rich IP portfolio is very advantageous. Here, we talk about Patents, Trade Secrets, and Defensive Publications as IP tools to help you decide which one to be used in which scenario.

Trade Secret:

A trade secret is any information that’s unique to your enterprise and gives you an advantage over your competitors. As a company, this could include formulae, technical data, code, manufacturing data, customer information or any other technical, scientific information that a company may take steps to keep secret.  To keep such things as a trade secret does not require any money however you need to take care of certain things to maintain the secrets (as described later).

Defensive Publication:

A defensive publication is a disclosure of invention by the inventor to the public. This disclosure allows the inventor to safeguard the freedom to use this invention by preventing others from patenting it.

In the event a patent is sought to be obtained for the same or similar invention, a pre-dated defensive publication will act as a deterrent to the issue of such patent.

Put simply, any printed or electronic publication that fully describes an invention and was published before the filing date of a patent application can disqualify that patent from being granted.

Patent:

A patent is an exclusive right granted by a government for an invention, which is a product or a process that provides, in general, a new way of doing something, or offers a new technical solution to a problem. 

In order for an invention to be patentable,  

  1. It must be new
  2. It must involve an inventive step, one that is non-obvious to a person skilled in the field
  3. And it must be capable of industrial application

Patents protect your inventions for 20 years during which you enjoy a monopoly in the market place. However patent protection is country specific. So you enjoy the monopoly within the geographic boundary that your patent has been granted in. As a patent owner, you can do the following:

  1. You have the right to prevent others from using it, abandon it, sell it.
  2. You may also assign it or license it in totality or for a specific purpose. 

So, how does one choose what kind of protection to use for an invention? 

Trade Secrets

There are three vital things to do when you think of protecting something as a trade secret:

  1. Define your trade secrets and maintain an inventory of the trade secrets of your organization.
  2. Make your employees aware of the fact that these are trade secrets. Ensure confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements are in place.
  3. Do not make any information about your trade secret publicly available.

Here are some questions that will help you choose the right type of IP protection: “Patents Vs Trade Secrets”.

How easy is it to reverse engineer your invention?

The thumb rule of trade secret protection is to use it when inventions are impossible or require a very hard degree of effort to be reverse-engineered. By its very nature, a trade secret is vulnerable to reverse engineering because it only remains secret until it’s a secret! So, patent protection for inventions that can be easily reverse-engineered is more appropriate. How easy reverse engineering is; depends on the nature of your invention.

Mechanical inventions

Products that are a result of this kind of innovation are fairly easy to reverse engineer. With anything that is easy to reverse engineer, trade secret protection becomes completely ineffective.  

Chemical Compositions, Software & Electronic Inventions

While these are not as easy as mechanical inventions, with a little time and effort these products can also be reverse-engineered. Read this to understand how!  

Processes

These are quite difficult to reverse engineer. Since processes are business-specific, they are easier to keep within the company. There is a long list of food products that have managed to keep their recipes or chemical formulae as trade secrets for many years e.g. Coca-Cola, Listerine, Twinkies, Krispy Kreme Donuts, WD-40, etc. Google Search Algorithm and NewYork Times criteria for creating the best Sellers list are two processes that serve as great examples for trade secrets.

How beneficial is it to your company to keep your invention a secret?

In a cut-throat market place, competition is everything. A major aspect to consider if keeping your invention a trade secret gives you a clear competitive advantage. There are six factors of competitive advantage: price, quality, selection, speed, turnaround and service. Does your trade secret serve or help further any of these purposes?

Who are your likely competitors and how motivated will they be to access your invention?

To choose the right kind of IP protection, it is important to understand your competition. The motivation of your competition to access your invention will be directly proportionate to your market position. So, having a clear understanding of your market, your product and the path of your company will help with answering this question. 

Will the invention be useful after 20 years?

One of the reasons you choose trade secret protection over patent protection is to extend the lifetime of protection that it offers. While patents offer you protection or a monopoly of 20 years; trade secrets can last you a lifetime. Although trade secrets are less of a strain on the pocket procedurally, keeping them a secret always comes at a cost. Being able to gauge the usefulness of your invention after 20 years is a great tool to decide how you would like to protect it. 

Patents

The following is a list of reasons to patent and questions that will help you evaluate the patentability of an invention:

Competitive Edge

A business usually wants to patent an invention to have a competitive edge, market power, and as a tool to earn more money. Hence the first question to ask is whether there is a market for the invention, the technology, or products incorporating it? 

Need in the Market

If there is a market for your invention, what are the available alternatives to it, and how do they compare with your invention? Check multiple factors such as utility, price, availability, customer satisfaction etc.

Utility of Invention

Once you have data on the market space, ask if the invention is useful for improving an existing product or developing a new product? If so, does it fit in with your company’s business strategy? 

Fund Raising

Another big reason for choosing to patent is using it as a tool to raise funds and attract potential investors. Before you choose to spend resources on a patent, check if there are potential licensees or investors who will be willing to take the invention to market?

New Revenue Stream

If you are looking to patent to sell your invention or as a tool to add a new revenue stream by licensing your patent, ask how valuable will the invention be to your business and to competitors? Also, just how easy is it to reverse engineer your invention from your product or to “invent around” it? Is reverse engineering easy enough to tempt others, especially competitors, to invent and patent what you have invented?

Sales & Profit

Purely as a tool to increase sales, profits, and revenue, do the expected profits from an exclusive position in the market justify the costs of patenting?

Commercial Utility

Lastly, what aspects of the invention can be protected by one or more patents, how broad can this coverage be and will this provide commercially useful protection

Defensive Publications

If you don’t want to walk down either the Trade Secret or the Patent route, you may consider a Defensive Publication. By making a defensive publication, your invention is neither a trade secret, nor patentable (if not done so within the time frame offered under certain jurisdictions). A defensive publication may be ideal for smaller inventions or inventions which do not serve your company greatly, financially.

What a defensive publication does is safeguards your right to continue doing what you are doing or at the very least opening yourself out to challenge patents. When you make a defensive publication, you essentially disallow someone else from filing a patent. Or giving you the arsenal you need to hold a patent invalid because you published first. With a defensive publication (made in the USA), you are given a one year grace period to file a patent based on such publication. 

A Quick Recap | Patents Vs Trade Secrets

To summarise, here is a tabular comparison of “Patents Vs Trade Secrets”.

FactorsPatentsTrade Secrets
Reverse EngineeringNot a factor that needs to be worried about since you make public disclosure with a patent, and are granted full rights.The easier it is to reverse engineer your invention, the riskier it is to protect it as a trade secret.
CostExpensive mechanism of protection. Involves attorney fee for drafting and filing and official fee for obtaining a patent.In theory, a trade secret is free. Practically, keeping it a well-guarded secret may cost your company a certain sum of money.
Life of the inventionIf your invention can stand the test of time and still be relevant after twenty years, this is not the right protection.The benefits of keeping a trade secret are directly proportionate to the life of your invention.
Funding and Marketing Better option to obtain funding as ideas become easier to explain to investors because of public disclosure. Difficulty in explaining the invention to an investor for fear of divulging a secret may prove to be a hurdle for funding.
First Mover AdvantageYou lose out on the advantage of being an initial significant occupant as disclosure through a patent application can help competition enter the same market space slightly quicker than otherwise. With choosing to protect your invention as a trade secret, you can extend this advantage to a slightly longer time as your competition will have no information on your invention in the public domain before its market entry. 

Conclusion

Choose wisely when deciding how you want to protect your ideas/inventions. Trade secrets are a great way forward and help you save your resources. Use these resources in patenting your best inventions. They don’t always have to cost a fortune. Here’s a guide to cost-effective patenting.

Like all things, life and business, IP protection is also all about balance. Trade secrets and patents can sometimes be used in a manner that is more complimentary than the contrary. IP strategy is personal to a Company and its journey. Hopefully, this shall make you choice easier: Patents Vs Trade Secrets.

5 Factors to Evaluate An Idea Management Tool | IP Strategy

Evaluating an idea management tool

Logically speaking, any investment is worth only if it reaps great returns.

A study by Accenture suggests 62% percent of high-growth companies plan to invest in technologies that lead to higher rates of innovation, compared to 54% of other companies.

Investing in technologies that lead to higher rates of innovation shall be beneficial only if the intellectual property created based on the innovation aligns with:

a) company’s business goals/product line.

b) has a market demand.

c) has the potential to be monetized either by licensing or selling.

d) enhances customer experience.

e) generates revenue growth.

After all, filing a single patent costs a minimum of USD 10,000.

Not sure about the cost of getting IP protection for your product or company? Here is everything you need to know about costs related to your IP in the USA.

Now, where is the scope of failure in creating IP wealth for the company?

1. Patent creation was not thought of from different angles like feasibility, demand, investment, etc.

2. Collaborators from the various segments did not participate in the journey from idea to patent.

3. Redundancy in the novelty of a patent gets caught at a later stage.

All this happens due to the absence of the right tool/software that can assure strategic collaboration and tracking.

So, as a patent portfolio manager of your company, an innovation tracking software tailored to your needs shall be an asset.

A tool that addresses each stage of the journey of an idea to patent as shown below:

Idea Management Process Triangle IP

Here are the 5 factors you should consider while you evaluate an idea management tool:

1. Is the tool easy to use?

2. Is the tool engaging to attract collaborators?

3. Does the tool provide real-time updates?

4. Does the tool manage the process throughout the life-cycle (Idea to Patent)?

5. Does the software keep evolving and getting more sophisticated?

Is the Idea Management Tool Easy to Use?

There is a good possibility that you might have used one of the following ways to manage ideas at your company:

1. Spreadsheets

2. CRM Software

3. Home grown tools comprising forms and tabular data

4. Collaboration tools

5. Expensive Docketing Software

The biggest shortcoming of these solutions is the complexity to use.

Nobody likes to fill long forms. Don’t you agree?

As the number of ideas, collaborators increase, tracking the updates on ideas/innovations becomes tricky and painful.The above mentioned methods are just makeshift arrangements, and not specifically designed keeping user experience in mind.

These tools lack intuitiveness and broad adoption across the enterprise. A user does not feel motivated to use the tool unless really needed. It’s the same as using a handkerchief in place of a specifically designed mask.

A handkerchief is just a make-do arrangement, however, a mask is designed keeping in mind filtration, breath-ability, comfort, ergonomics, etc.

On the contrary, if the tool is easy and simple to use, the collaborators will be encouraged to use the tool. Thus, speeding the process and achieving better results.

Is the Idea Management Tool You are exploring Engaging?

No innovation program is going to be successful unless you make it engaging. If the tool is not engaging, a user won’t be excited or motivated enough to share his/her ideas.

Encouragement to share the ideas is the very basis of such a program. It’s pretty much the same as sharing posts on social media like Facebook or Linkedin.

Engagement on posts through reactions, comments, impressions, views encourage the users to share even more. Not just more sharing, in fact, it gives users an idea of what type of posts score better in terms of response.

Below are just 10 ways out of many that make an idea & innovations management tool engaging:

1. Minimizing the friction to share ideas/feedback/updates or anything related to the tool.

2. A notification of idea submission to the collaborators for review.

3. A notification of feedback reception to innovator/inventor.

4. Patent Analytics driven Artificial Intelligence (AI) based review/rating on an idea from the tool.

5. Redundancy indication from IP Counsel.

6. Inputs on making the claims stronger for a Patent from IP Counsel.

7. Update on an innovation from business angle to all the collaborators.

8. Budget sanction notification for a successful innovation to be patented.

9. Patent draft available for review notification for all the stakeholders.

10. Inviting ideas to solve certain business challenges through innovation.

Does the Tool share Real-Time Updates?

A lot of stuff out there is very static. For example, if you wish to know the status of the company’s IP, you shall place a request for IP report generation to your patent attorney. The report shall most probably be in a form of a table/spreadsheet. Such a report makes it cumbersome to draw valuable insights on the IP front.

Another major problem with such a report is that it very quickly gets out of date. Hence what’s needed is a provision to track what’s happening with your innovations in real-time.

Here is how real-time updates are really beneficial:

1) People get busy developing the product, they forget about what’s happening with their innovation.

2) A system that monitors what’s going on shall help in making sure things are adhering to the process.

3) Timely updates help is avoiding last moment rush:

  • Realizing that you haven’t filed a patent yet and you are closer to the product release.
  • And then you are scrambling through to find out what’s happening and reaching out to IP counsel to get an update.

4) A one-shot way to update all the stakeholders allows for the transparency of the IP management.

Does the tool Manage the Process throughout the Lifecycle (Idea to Patent)?

Does the tool manage the process throughout the life-cycle(i.e. from Idea to Patent)?

The most common and important question that arises in this whole process is: do we file a patent or not?

Earlier the decision about patenting takes place the better it is, as it results in saving time, money, and effort.

Right provisions like below in the idea management tool can help in taking this important decision in the early stages or at least before regretting the investment made in patenting:

1) Visibility into a knowledge repository of ideas helps to avoid redundancy. There is a possibility that a similar idea got patented earlier. Even before the inventor of innovation in question got hired.

2) Vetting by Subject Matter Experts early on helps in shaping the idea and decide which ones to be pursued

3) Ability to view the patent draft as well as final patent application on the same platform.

Does the Innovation Management Tool keep Evolving and Getting more Sophisticated?

A pleasant surprise always makes you feel happy. Isn’t it? And only happy users can ensure the success of such a tool.

Innovations do not happen on a daily basis. But, whenever a user comes to the tool, new pleasing features shall engage him better. So such an innovation tracking tool needs to continuously evolve and keep getting more sophisticated.

Here are a few ways to achieve sophistication in an idea and innovation management software:

1) Improved Analytics

2) Enhanced Idea Nurturing

3) Dashboard driven by Great User Experience

4) Customization based on organizational needs

“With the right tools and a great team create strategic IP wealth and not dead investments.”

For a company, that files 40-60 patents per year, a tool that is specifically designed for idea capturing and vetting is sheer bliss.

It is important to make the best use of budget allocated towards creating IP.

We hope that this article could give you pointers to make the right choice for an idea management software.

TIP Tool is one such tool that is getting developed along the lines mentioned above. It currently provides ideas capturing and vetting.

Want to be a part of our beta community? Try it for free.

5 Strategies To Reduce Patent Expenditure

5-Strategies-to-Reduce-Patent-Expenditure

“Reduce Patent Expenditure”: Have we read your mind?

The on-going pandemic has drastically affected the availability of resources for discretionary expenses such as patents. It is of no surprise that many companies are proactively looking to conserve cash by pruning their patent portfolio.

So, what are some of the strategies that companies can opt to reduce their patent expenditure?

The following points aim to highlight the plausible ways:

Trade Secret

Patents are intangible assets, and so are trade secrets that enjoy legal protection from misappropriation.

The caveat here is that if a trade secret holder fails to maintain secrecy or:

  • if the information is independently discovered,
  • becomes released, or
  • becomes known in the general course of business,

then the protection of a trade secret is lost.

Nevertheless, here is how the Courts can enforce trade secrets in misappropriation cases:

1. By ordering maintenance of secrecy.

2. Payment of royalty to the owner.

Watch Webinar: How to manage your prosecution in the Covid environment?

Webinar: 5 Strategies To Reduce Patent Expenditure In The COVID World

Defensive Publication

Patents are expensive, defensive publication is a good alternative. You can curtail or defer expenses relating to patents by using the defensive publication to your advantage.

The defensive publication refers to the publishing of a technical disclosure of your idea in the public domain. This disclosure prevents competitors from obtaining a patent.

The reason behind the popularity of defensive publication is its cost-effective nature over patents.

Provisional Patents

Unlike a utility patent, a provisional patent is not reviewed by the USPTO.

A provisional patent acts as a reservation for the invention until an investor is willing to file a utility patent. However, the follow-up utility patent application needs to be filed within a year.

Thus, filing a provisional patent allows a company to defer patent expenses for a period of less than a year. In this period you can continue to conduct more research into the market viability of the patent. You can also use this time to refine the patent product/process itself. 

Also Read: Everything You Should Know About USPTO Patent Center

Curtail Overseas Spends

Patents are an expensive proposition, more so in foreign countries where patent applications stretch out over a year or sometimes more.

Furthermore, the patent protection regime in such countries may not be conducive to patent filing as enforceability is often lax.

Therefore, companies should reconsider their non-strategic patent spends and weed out jurisdictions after undertaking a cost-benefit analysis of obtaining a patent in that particular country.

Continuations

A continuation patent application is an extension of the existing patent application. The continuation patent application increases the scope of patent protection from multiple perspectives.

However, continuations are expensive to file. Since they are “designed” around an existing patent, it only serves to enhance coverage of an existing patent.

To conserve cash, companies can either forego filing continuations or defer them.

Other Strategies

Here are a few more high-level strategies that will ensure the optimization of patent spends for companies:

Ask Questions

Companies or clients should regularly question their patent attorney to gauge the timeframe as to:

  • when a patent will be issued,
  • what are the chances of getting a patent,
  • how best to curtail patent spend, etc.

By asking questions at every step along the patent application process, the viability of a patent can be determined. Whether it makes monetary sense to pursue the issuance of a patent or abandon it altogether.

Align Corporate Strategy

Often, patents are pursued with the sole intention of ensuring the protection of an invention rather than a monetizable invention.

Hence, in the prevailing scenario of depleting cash reserves, it is prudent to pursue patent applications of those inventions which:

  • align with the overall corporate strategy
  • or are expected to provide for economic benefits.

License to Litigate

Patents are a means to litigate. They provide for the legal protection of your inventions. In cases of infringement, the Court can award damages, court costs, and reasonable attorneys’ fees. Hence, it is a wise notion to pursue a strategy only for patents that are litigate-able.

Let’s Sum It Up

The COVID pandemic has thrown corporate strategies as well as financial forecasts for a toss. It is the all-hands-on-deck mode to conserve cash. It is widely acknowledged that patents, albeit extremely critical to the success of a company, incur exponential costs.

Companies can rationalize their patent expenditure over the short-term and medium-term by aligning it with the overall business objectives. Companies can also opt for ways to postpone filing a patent application.

Hope the insights presented in the post shall help you reduce patent expenditure.

Everything You Should Know About USPTO Patent Center

Everything about USPTO patent center

USPTO Patent Center – A Great Initiative!

The patent community has long been short-changed by the issues marred by missing or inconsistent patent data.

The companies and their respective patent attorneys have been on the receiving end of a system. The system, that was not user-friendly and involved multiple levels of cyber-bureaucracy. This led to inordinate delays and, on occasions, even missing deadlines. 

The drawbacks were so cumbersome that certain industry thought leaders came together to build a platform to fulfill their requirements. And this is how the Open Pair Initiative (OPI) was formed.

The OPI aimed to address the issue of the unavailability of Image File Wrappers (IFWs) in the short-term. The OPI is simultaneously working on a feasible long-term solution for IFW extraction.

Considering the pertinent issues raised by OPI, the USPTO recently unveiled the Patent Center. The aim behind the creation of the Patent Center is to rationalize the patent application procedure. This shall be done by allowing seamless management of documents and communication channels.

However, to better understand the importance of the Patent Center, it is imperative to take a walk through the memory lane. And understand the evolution of the USPTO tools.

Timeline of USPTO Tools

Public Patent Application Information Retrieval (PAIR)

This system is the de facto source of IFWs as of date. However, it is besieged with numerous issues such as slow loading of the website and erroneous verification process. 

Global Dossier

Global Dossier is another source of IFWs which is relatively free from verification issues. But is heavily dependent on the Public PAIR, which may not always be up to date. Another pesky problem with Global Dossier is that each office action is required to be downloaded separately. There is no functionality to download all IFWs in a single click.

Reed Tech

This is the USPTO’s answer to make available outsourcing of IFWs. But it has been flagged for serious speed issues. Due to which many companies had to resort to building their own patent repository.

As can be observed above, each of the above tools had shortcomings that needed to be addressed.

The beta version of the Patent Center aims to negate these shortcomings by providing for complete and seamless open access to Public PAIR records without the demand for continuous verification. 

Key Highlights of the USPTO Patent Center

Following are the key highlights of the Patent Center:

  • Integrated interface for e-filing and management of patent applications.
  • Use of existing USPTO.gov accounts and sponsorships. 
  • Submission of a joint .docx file involving specifications, claims, and abstract without the need to separate these sections manually.
  • Elimination of the need to convert .docx file into a .pdf document for e-filing.
  • Same authentication and sponsorship process as EFS-Web and PAIR.

The entire list of the features alongside proposed features (and any known issues) can be found here.

Given that the current version of the Patent Center is in the beta stage, the feedback from various stakeholders is being collated by USPTO to make further changes.

Here is a timeline of the Patent Center shared by the USPTO:

USPTO Patent Center

Credits: USPTO

TIP Tool – Feedback Incorporated

Although the information provided through Patent Center is a welcome step, the Patent Center is still, nevertheless, just an API which provides for information in a form that a user cannot comprehend/read – this is where tools like TIP comes into the picture. 

With multiple years of product experience behind it, Triangle IP has developed the TIP tool (currently in beta phase). It analyzes the patent data to offer powerful insights. These insights can assist IP professionals in monetizing their patents with enhanced quality and lower cost of patent protection.

Another critical feature of the Patent Center is the availability of rejection files. Through the diligence of the TIP tool, the acknowledgment and rejection data surrounding patents are used to define the extent of the rejection or prosecution histories, i.e., the intensity of the rejection and the number of claims impacted by the rejection. 

Through the Patent Center, access to the full transaction history of a patent is made available. This is relatively crucial as it enables tracking of patents during the prosecution cycle. But with the TIP tool, companies and attorneys can ensure end-to-end tracking of innovation from idea capture to the publication of patent by leveraging the patent data to manage the entire lifecycle for each patent.

Conclusion

The introduction of the Patent Center is a major boon to the patent industry as it addresses issues of missing and inconsistent patent data.

Furthermore, the release of the IFWs and rejection data has enabled the development of the tools like TIP to provide for powerful data-based insights that can go a long way in the effective monetization of a patent.

As more data become available, the insights offered by these tools are only going to become more penetrative and customized – exciting times beckon.

7 ways to Encourage Innovative Thinking at Your Workplace

Encouraging innovative thinking at workplace

The start-up culture is on a boom, and with the launch of several innovative steps, many concepts unimagined a few years earlier have forayed in the market (such as tableware turning into the soil, green plastic, smart waste, etc.).

But many malicious practices (cyber attacks due to lack of/no cybersecurity) have also surfaced with the boom of this culture. Many ideas or ventures that seemed practicable have doomed terribly with no signs of recovery. 

Why do you think some ideas don’t make it to the finishing line?

What is your opinion? What are the steps we are not taking to curb this issue?

Where do you think we are lacking? 

Encourage innovative thinking using the following ways to find answers to these questions. They may even help you or your business get out of the mess or launch an idea successfully.

The seven ways to encourage innovative thinking are:

  1. Think Tank
  2. Mixed Culture
  3. Adequate Staffing
  4. Experimentation Zone
  5. Reward & Recognition
  6. Shut down
  7. Flexible Environment

Think Tank

This is not the real think tank where you get paid to do only research, study, and research. An organization can create a think tank of employees’ expertise in a particular subject or field. This can also have a discussion panel. Whenever an idea strikes, he/she should directly approach the concerned panel.

This way, the culture of innovation will flourish seamlessly. This approach will help departments to launch a creative solution to challenges.

Mixed Culture

This might sound a bit tricky but bore long-lasting results. Teams with diverse academic backgrounds, gender, and age groups make an organization fertile and successful.

Mixed culture gives a character, a personality to any organization. It creates a healthy work environment where give-and-take of ideas takes place without any hurdles. It also makes an office highly productive.

Imagine an organization with only older people, or only youngsters, or only female or only male employees. Clients often find organizations like these less approachable.

Offices have a limited scope of development if they do not have a mixed culture. Many clients might not take organizations like these seriously or might find them less inventive.

To make your organization avoid getting into this trap and run smoothly on the grounds of innovation and creativity, incorporating mixed culture is a must. Embracing diversity and encouraging different perspectives is key.

Adequate Staffing

Supposedly in an organization, employees are overloaded with work. Where will ideas thrive, if they do not have time to think on them? Employees should have adequate work, but not get bogged down by workload.

This builds an atmosphere of hate, anxiety, and indecisiveness that brings down the organization. Organizations should hire adequate, qualified, and well-trained staff.

Experimentation zone

This is like a play area, where you play with your ideas than any games. The HR team has a crucial role to play in setting up experimentation zones in their organization. Here you get leverage to discuss your ideas freely without any hesitation. This zone will enable people to hang out, discuss ideas, troubleshoot, and get a bird’s eye view of their plan. This will make innovation the new normal. It will imbibe trust in employees for their organization for contributing not just in its personal growth, but also in the growth of the employees.

Reward & Recognition

This is by far the most important step. Anybody wants to get rewarded or recognized for their contribution to any task they do. The type of award does not matter. What matters is the recognition. This creates a positive work environment. It also encourages other employees to follow suit and perform better.

Shut down

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Working 24*7 will make you successful is a wrong notion. You need to unwind and shut a few times a day or maybe at least once in a week. Offices should encourage this culture to thrive. Constant work challenges your brains’ thinking abilities. A power nap after lunch, outing with colleagues, coffee break, stroll after lunch or in the evening are some of the many ways that take you out from the monotony. Who knows shutting down can give you a new perspective of a problem that is bothering you for long!

Flexible environment

Gone are the ‘9 to 5’ days. People love to work in an environment where they are heard. A grumpy boss, gossiping and jealous colleagues and tight working hours make the work environment hazardous. Will innovation thrive in such an atmosphere?

Of course not!

A flexible and relaxed environment increases productivity 10 fold. Employees won’t get Monday blues for sure if they are provided a positive work environment.

To make your office a safe haven, you might try incorporating all these steps. This way employees will not hesitate in taking that necessary leap. Some plans might fail. But with discussions and interactions, all the problems will be easily dealt with. 

To build in a healthy work environment, employers should carry out regular surveys and set up the organization accordingly. They should make sure every resource hired is valued.

In the present time, an agile innovation management tool like TIP tool can transform the way your business fall, collect and implement various ideas. 

Also Read: How to control patent costs without compromising on your patent?

Richard Branson has rightly said, “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”

If you like this article, join us where we share patent information that matters to you. Don’t worry, we only send emails that we feel are highly relevant for you. 🙂


Ultimate Patent Strategy for your Software Startup (Comprehensive Guide)

Patent strategy for your software startup

As any tech company has learned over the years, securing new patents can be a very frustrating, challenging process and it’s not getting any easier.

Why You Need a Patent Strategy?

So, for start-ups entering a market for the first time with a brand-new invention, the balance between securing early protection and preparing a viable application with a good chance of approval is critical.

The fact is, software, in particular, has had so many runs at the U.S. patent office, they are not impressed by the next big thing and often turn down packages as duplicates, ill-prepared, or the easy kill – insufficient information on which to base a patent approval.

The second problem inherent in the system is that existing software patents are written like a giant barn door, capturing far more in licensing power than many should have, also blocking otherwise subsequent good packages from seeing the light of day.

The results of these two factors have created a modern patent process that rewards undeserving winners and makes it almost impossible for most startups to see their way through the process without solid investor backing from big players and heavy patenting expertise.

Also Read: Answers To 25 Most Searched Patent Related Questions

Basis of the Patent Strategy of your software startup

Many will argue the first and best step is to secure solid legal representation and let the lawyers handle everything.

However, this is incorrect.

In reality, the cornerstone and foundation of a good patent has always been the innovative nature of the invention to be protected.

Pure and simple, the invention must carry the day in how unique and different it is from anything already protected.

This provides the basis for what in essence becomes a legal monopoly no one can break for decades without severe risk.

So, the invention has to be a standout and unique.

The invention must also have staying power. What solution does it provide?

People don’t buy a tool because it’s a tool; they buy the tool because it provides a functional solution to a problem.

In other words, the invention needs to be the kind of idea that is going to be around for a decade or so at least. If the viable window for your invention is only a few months or a year, save your money and legal resources and instead maximize what you can from sales and the market before the fad wears off.

It’s a better use of your time and keeps more earned cash in your company wallet. Then move onto your next market idea.

Investing Patent Efforts on Software as well as the Hardware front

Technically, anything invented that is unique and different from anything already existed in that same purpose and function can be patented, but is it worth the trouble?

In many cases, the answer is no. Patenting simply for the sake of patenting is foolish.

It’s a waste of money, effort, time and resources to make happen, especially if the patent is not going to be used economically or protects a critical component in an assembly that will go to market.

Choose the protection of your inventions wisely and realistically in terms of what is truly going to go to the market and be a reliable revenue-maker.

If the patent is just an attempt to gain a reputation by showing ownership of multiple patents, you can do a lot better for a lot less with other titles such as certifications or industry awards instead.

Your protection of intellectual property needs to be strategic in nature.

As heavily detailed by Blake Harris in his book, The History of the Future, when Oculus created their virtual reality headset product, the patent protection they pursued was not on the hardware.

Most of the hardware parts were knock-off material from previous products and inventions re-purposed by Oculus to make the developer kits and the first masks.

Instead, Oculus put its patent effort in the software and hardware combination that made their version of virtual reality work so darn well and different from anything before. That was the invention that gave Oculus their strategic advantage, and what needed legal protection.

This was proven later in a subsequent patent trial Oculus’ team partially won holding onto the same patent rights.

Importance of Filing Patents on Different Parts of an Invention

Even if you get an invention patent, is your product going to be worth fighting for? There are lots of companies with far more money, power, and lawyers than your startup who can burn you dry filing counter motions and delaying tactics in court to drain your bank account. This is a well-known and well-used tactic.

If you go bankrupt before your protection is awarded, what’s the point of having the patent in the first place?

While your startup may not have an unending bankroll available to litigate, like that of maybe Oracle or Google, you can layer your invention with more than one patent.

Strategically filing patents on different parts of your invention can create a far more complex fight before it starts. It’s far more complex and requires that the separate parts have a distinct difference, but successful multiple patents produce stronger ownership of the invention as a whole.

Then you have the choice of defending on multiple fronts, making it harder for the bigger player to run away with one part and be successful.

Apple, for example, was approved 44 patents on just one new iPhone design in 2018. Additionally, you could sell one of the patents to another player, and use the sale funds to pay for your defense as well.

If it’s a good invention showing significant promise, others will want to invest, and that can offset the financial strength of the attacker in litigation.

Detailed Roadmap of Patent Strategy

Many startups and new companies lose their focus trying to patent too early to leverage uniqueness. Instead, patent experts regularly advise the best approach is having a strategic timing plan of when the patent will be pursued along the path of the company development and launch. The most successful tech patents were pursued and secured just before the product based on their invention went to the market and at the edge of its revenue run.

That, in turn, protected every exponential dollar in sales as the product took off. Patent too early, and money will be wasted on what might turn out to be a mistake that never goes to market or fizzles. Patent too late, and someone else might churn out a viable substitute invention before your startup gets a footing.

Your roadmap should have a clear phase of the following:

·         Development of the invention

·         Finished prototype

·         Investment partnering

·         Pre-market preparation

·         Pre-market launch

·         Production

Where the ideal point for the patent is in your startup’s case depends on which phase your invention becomes viable and in demand as something new and a real solution to a customer’s problem. When that happens and goes public, the attention will go viral, and your risk of loss without a patent rises exponentially increases as well. Add in the fact that today’s international patent markets are growing very much in sync with each other, the protection can be extended across borders as well.

Combining Elements for an Edge as a part of Patent Strategy

A common question by many startups trying to differentiate themselves in the market tends to be with taking a niche approach. While they aren’t the first to the market to create one element, they may find a market creating a bridge between two or three existing elements.

These elements may even have patents themselves individually and already owned by someone else.

However, the bridge invention created may very well be eligible for a patent because no one else saw the possibility of the separate items coming together for a new purpose.

Remember though, a combination alone is not an automatic patent approval. The government approves patents because the invention is “new, useful and non-obvious,” not because of a combination of parts being present in general.

In Oculus’ example noted above, the virtual reality kit maker used common parts already patented by other manufacturers but the software was the unique bridge that made the parts come together in a better way. The software needed the parts, but the coding was the bridge invention itself that made the entire product viable as a better way to experience virtual reality.

How can Provisional Patent Option be helpful in your Patent Strategy?

Most people unfamiliar with the patent process simply assume that a patent is an all or nothing application. It gets submitted, reviewed and either approved or denied in total.

That’s not true.

There is what is known as a “provisional” patent application.

This option allows a filer to submit a “temporary” application that gives one year of protection versus a permanent patent for an invention.

However, unlike the full patent process, the provisional patent is cheap in comparison. And it’s a great tool for gaining some temporary protection for a unique invention that needs some sort of defense but a startup is not yet sure it will be a worthy investment or not.

Normally, a provisional patent filed with an attorney’s help will cost anywhere between $1,500-2,500. Before hiring a patent attorney, you must take these 6 things into consideration.

However, if a startup really wants to go as cheap as possible, the application can be self-written by the company itself and the government’s filing fee runs about $70-140.

And, in addition to the protection, the owner gets the benefit of being able to legally warn anyone that a patent is pending, which itself can scare off theft at a very low cost.

The full patent filing will need to be submitted a year later if full protection is going to be pursued, and the full filing needs to be based on the earlier provisional filing versus creating an entirely new package.

The filer can’t add greater features, detail, or scope to the provisional package with the subsequent full filing 12 months later, using the provisional filing as a “draft” run.

Why you should Patent under the name of your Startup?

Whichever patents your startup decides to create, make sure they are owned by the startup business entity right from the beginning. Too often startups have a smart team player, and the patent is titled in that person’s name versus the company.

This can become a big mistake if the person walks away from the startup when things really start taking off. While non-discretionary agreements (NDAs) can prevent an employee or partner from giving away intellectual property for a while, NDAs expire in a few years’ time.

And then the ownership of the patent in practical terms is gone. Startups that make it clear ideas and inventions created in the context of the business are owned by the startup right from the start do themselves big favors down the road and avoid an “achilles’ heel” weakness with key inventors as personnel.

What to do in case you have no budget for patents?

One of the areas that nobody can effectively create a patent has to do with the public domain. This is where an invention is known to everyone and is commonly available. As a result, nobody can claim the invention as their own unique and new idea. A startup that wants to make sure a prototype idea gets to fruition but doesn’t have the resources or the expectation the idea will get a patent of its own can use the public domain to make sure no one else can do the same.

The Linux operations system code is a great example of this approach. Unlike Microsoft Windows or Apple iOs software, Linux code was made publicly available from the start. Because the code has been constantly developed in the public domain, nobody can turn around and patent Linux today (although they have tried as in the case of Microsoft). Anyone can work on the code and improve it. This approach has kept Linux in the shared-development domain for decades, and the product has been extremely effective in how well it’s been improved as a result.

Linux today is the preferred operating system for many large-scale server systems, for example, far more so than Windows Server, and it is the coding basis for the Internet of Things (IoT) world as well. This alternative approach can be a great way to protect an invention from being lost by doing the opposite of the profit model and making the idea available for everyone to use.

Getting Different Government Help to Secure Early Protection at Lower Cost

It’s a smart idea to consider which market your invention is going to be sold in as a product before filing for protection.

For example, if your invention is geared for Europe and a foreign language jurisdiction, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to file immediately in the U.S. for patent protection. Your startup would be better served to seek protection in Germany or the U.K. instead.

We previously also wrote about 5 strategies that could help you develop Foreign Patent Portfolio.

In some cases, startups can be eligible for government help in offsetting the costs for their international patent filings.

The Canadian government, for example, provides guidance and financial support for small and medium businesses to file patents within its system.

One might ask, why go to Canada versus operate in the U.S., but remember that international coordination is now happening with greater and greater strength every day.

Filing a patent in Canada with government-funded assistance could be a way to put legal protection in place that the U.S. would honor, and it’s a lot cheaper than the cost of filing a full patent in the U.S. out-of-pocket.

Just like software coding, there’s more than one way to skin a cat when working to patent a software or prototype. Problems can be solved, gaps can be crossed with different directions and steps.

As a startup, you will have financial challenges and the traditional path toward success won’t seem practical. But you can break that mold by being smart with your startup’s patent strategy and playing your options that fit best for your particular intellectual property scenario.

Remember, you will likely have more than one patent, and there’s no rule that says you have to use the same approach to protect one invention versus how you protect the next.

Plan each one in itself and then combine your overall business model with what works best, firing on multiple channels instead of just one single path.

If you like this article, join us where we share patent information that matters to you. Don’t worry, we only send emails that we feel are highly relevant for you. 🙂

User Privacy: Can Blockchain really shift the control back to users?

Can blockchain shift control back to users

With every browsing session and every online purchase, you are leaving footprints and creating ample amounts of data. Indeed, your personal information is now mostly available in the public domain. Many businesses rely on collecting, organizing, and profitably using this data. 

In particular, personal data is information that relates to an identifiable living individual. It can include names, email IDs, ID card numbers, logging information, information on financial transactions, physical and IP addresses, and the like.

Does it carry any value? Well, according to the Smithers Pira report, the market for personal ID credential stands at $8.7 billion. And it is forecasted to hit $9.7 billion by 2021.

Blockchain Market Growth

Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, LinkedIn, and many other companies have access to a large scale of our personal data that they sell to advertisers. Even though they claim to have stringent data privacy practices, these companies are responsible for recurring personal data breaches.

A Cybersecurity Ventures Report predicts that cybercrime damages will cost the world $6 trillion annually by 2021. Indeed, there’s a running joke that Facebook knows you better than you know yourself.

Can blockchain help us to wade through these data breaches that have become commonplace? Is it possible for the user to get back control of their data?

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin show some promise. You can use them to solve the issues of trust and transparency. For over a decade, they have worked in hostile environments to hold details of coins of over a million users. 

In the article, you will get to explore the distributed ledger technology of Blockchain. First, let’s look at how privacy concerns forced the EU to enforce new privacy rules that all businesses had to oblige.

GDPR and User Privacy

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect on May 25, 2018. It applies to companies that provide goods or services to businesses or customers in the EU. And it reflects a paradigm shift in the relationship users have with their personal data. 

The regulation calls for providing substantial rights to the users in their interaction with data controllers and data processors (majorly tech companies). Here’s an overview of the critical changes that compliance with the regulation is expected to bring.

Changes with GDPR

As you can see, GDPR calls for: 

  • An explicit and informed consent from the user before a company can collect their personal data.
  • Giving the right to the individuals to have their data deleted (under certain conditions).
  • Strengthening the reporting obligations and enforcement: Data breaches must be reported within 72 hours.
  • A failure to comply could result in a fine of up to 4% of annual global turnover (or €20 million).

Such regulations are an economic deterrent for companies that indulge in violating user data privacy. Stricter implementation will make the breaches a lot more costly. 

However, with the world moving towards a decentralized power structure are regulations the way forward? We’ll come back to the question after looking at how the underlying blockchain technology works.

Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) Overview

The main problem with the public internet framework is the incompatibility between the architecture of the internet and the data privacy requirements. Each time a data set passes through a third-party entity, a copy is withheld in a centralized database, and it becomes prone to hacks.

The internet generates 2.5 quintillion bytes of data each day. Further, 90% of the data in the world was created in the last two years alone. At such a huge scale, a new approach that could solve user privacy concerns is distributed ledger technology (DLT).

Distributed Ledger Technology

Specifically, blockchains are decentralized DLT, and their information is stored not in a single, centralized database. Instead, it’s stored in a potentially infinite number of databases called blocks. They store immutable records distributed among different users that have their private encrypted keys. 

Here’s a look at how blockchain works to facilitate an online transaction.

Working of Blockchain

Next, let’s explore how blockchain can come in handy to help us secure our personal data.

How DLT can safeguard our personal data (and a look at MIT Enigma Project and Bitclave…)

Right now, you submit our data to different platforms that you interact with online. DLT could chip in to store it in decentralized ledger/blocks. Thereby, the data becomes free from a single point of access and failure. 

A major challenge with blockchain that remains is that your data is shared “everywhere.” How does it even address our issue of “privacy” of our crucial information? Further, computing on blockchain becomes slow at a large scale. 

Issues with Blockchain

To solve the above two major issues:

Enter researchers from MIT with their enigma project. Their protocol achieves “sharing of secrets without revealing any information to outsiders or the individuals involved.”

Assuming that we successfully solve the challenges with blockchain, the existing ecosystem between the users and companies might transform. Let me explain:

Currently, Facebook, Google, and Amazon harvest tons of user data, while providing minimum value to the user. In an ideal scenario, the user should be able to choose if they want to sell their data. Also, they reserve the rights and restrictions on how it’s leveraged.

If we connect the blocks to the existing payment systems and platforms, a user can cherish more control over the information they want to share. Combine DLT with security features like biometric authentication on smartphones to have an additional layer of security and bid goodbye to passwords.

If blockchain overtakes the current opaque system, the blockchain-based decentralized marketplace, Bitclave, gives a glimpse of how things will change.

  • As the BAT ad system becomes available, you can expect the users to receive 70% of the revenue.
BAT System
  • Bitclave will also reward the users for watching ads and give you full control over your personal data.

If the prospects are so exciting, then why hasn’t blockchain been implemented?

Final Thoughts (including challenges with implementing blockchain)

A study by the Stanford Graduate School of Business shows that DLT technology broadly has the following four benefits:

  • Transparency,
  • Immutability,
  • Lower costs,
  • Digital identity.

However, here are the major challenges in its implementation.

Dismantling power structures

The existing centralized entities (including governments, big banks, and financial institutions) are reluctant to give up control. They are risk-averse and “slow” to accept something as innovative as DLT. It could potentially destroy their economic influence.

For blockchain technology to work alongside these stakeholders, the global development community needs to understand how it works. And open-mindedly consider how its use cases and how it adds value to their work.

Value Add of Blockchain

User acceptance

Google and Facebook have considerably altered consumer behavior. Currently, users are happy to give up their data in exchange for free services. They are not even aware of the value they are creating for companies and how their digital lives are at stake.

However, despite the challenges, there’s been some progress:

Estonia has gradually moved its citizen data onto a distributed ledger system. Even Singapore is considering moving towards a Blockchain system to allow citizens to interact seamlessly with government services.

The state of Illinois has also launched a pilot of its blockchain-based registry/ID system.

Illlinois Blockchain Initiative

Blockchain looks promising to solve consumer issues of privacy and give them some control. If it’s accepted and adopted by larger entities, then we could see the cash shift back from corporates and get distributed among the users.