Protect What You Produce

A huge number of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in India are reported to be losing millions in revenues due to lack of awareness about intellectual property rights. About 40,000 IP applications are filed in India annually and multinational corporations, leaving a sizable number filed by SMEs, file 85 per cent of these. In the developed world, owing to high awareness levels, small entrepreneurs approach venture capital and private equity funds to meet the expenses incurred on cost of protection, enforcement and commercialization of IPRs. In India, the lack of awareness among small players effectively denies them the fruits of the intellectual property they create.

Every start-up, lean or not, needs to plan for success.  If your start-up starts to scale quickly, a strong IP portfolio will be vitally important to your ability to play the long game. The world’s largest innovators, including Google, Microsoft and Apple, seem to agree.  They’re investing top dollar to ensure that their corporate IP portfolios are diverse, rich in innovation, and allow them to hedge against many possible futures. 

What should start-ups do to protect their IP assets?

  • Make time to get smart on intellectual property. Educate yourself and team on the basics of trademarks, copyrights, patents, and trade secrets. Investing a day or two early on will save headaches later.
  • Patent what is important to others, not just you
  • Reduce costs by doing your own IP searches first. Start with a Google patent search.
  • Work with an attorney who specializes in intellectual property and ask for a fixed rate to file.  
  • Save money by working with a patent attorney from a different geography. The cost savings may be upwards of 50%, and sometimes more.
  • Patents aren't your only asset. Conduct an audit to identify all your registered and unregistered trademarks and copyrights.
  • Invest in well-written non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). Make sure your employment agreements, licenses, sales contracts and technology transfer agreements all protect your intellectual property too, right from the get-go.
  • File as fast as you can. A patent application holds your place in line. You will have 12 months from that initial submission to expand upon your filing.
  • Investigate international patents if key competitors are outside the country.
  • Think hard about the future.  From your vantage point, what does the future look like? Use this information to devise your patent strategy, and to figure out which of your work needs to be legally protected. From there, your patent applications should flow.

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