From small start-ups powered by hopes, dreams, and whatever cash they can get, to long-established corporations that have spent decades in their industry, the concept of intellectual property a universal concern. Encompassing trademarks, copyrights, patents, and a wide range of rights related to those, protecting intellectual property is in many ways the same as protecting your entire business.
O’Brien Patent Solutions offers a broad range of services to companies seeking to establish patents, a crucial step in protecting intellectual property. For a start-up, how they choose to approach this challenge charts the course of its future. For larger corporations, failing to execute an IP strategy can leave key products vulnerable to the competition in unforeseen ways, or it can affect how product developers on staff are compensated for their work.
The solution is not just as simple as hiring an attorney to handle your intellectual property strategy. The industry you are a part of, the products your producing, and even the number of people working on the product all dictate what the best strategy will be. As the inventor of a product, or founder of a company based around that product, it is in your best interests to not just “leave this to the legal team.”
Intellectual property strategy has two key parts: forming rights, and generating revenue from those rights.
Forming rights, and generating revenue from them are interrelated to an extent. The sooner you establish those rights, the sooner you can begin generating that revenue. How you go about forming those rights will depend on your company.
Forming rights is a farmer/chicken/egg problem. A single egg isn’t going to do much good by itself. But put a couple eggs together, add some salt, some pepper, and now you’ve got a delicious omelet.
Consider the project manager for your new product the farmer in this analogy. He’s the one that ensures everything is coming together. But without chickens (your employees), there are no eggs to work with.
Who has the rights to the eggs in that omelet depends on the rights you’re trying to form. With patents, the answer is the chickens. With copyright, the farmer is the answer (if those chickens are employees, and not independent contractors). Obviously, for any project manager, there’s a distinct advantage to having permanent employees on the team. This key distinction is what determines how you will be forming the rights.
For fresh start-ups, this can be a serious point of contention for all involved. When many ‘agreements’ can be made on napkins or in casual conversation at a restaurant, or when an invention can be closely related to an inventor’s primary employer, establishing who owns what, when, and why can prevent serious issues down the line. A significant portion of our patent services revolves around this aspect alone for start-ups across many industries.
Generating revenue from your intellectual property is accomplished in a variety of ways. When you’re developing a product to go to market, filing a provisional patent can protect your product from competition before it hits the shelves. Most importantly, companies who file provisional patents early statistically make more money.
Let’s go back to that delicious omelet. Filing a provisional patent means more than protecting the Double Egg Salt n’ Pepper-melet, as important as that might be. You’re protecting the innovation that the omelet could inspire throughout the entire omelet industry. It’s a very important distinction to make, and it’s also where a lot of money is to be made.
A well-written provisional patent application can establish your invention as an original from which other products are inspired. And those products, despite whatever alterations are made to them by other companies, can be traced to your PPA, which should take these questions into account:
- What is your invention made of?
- How do the parts of your invention connect?
- How does the invention work, and can it be used in more than one way?
- Are there other ways to construct the invention, with the same components, or similar components?
Ideally, your PPA comes with extensive documentation that can visually demonstrate everything about that omelet that makes it unique, and shows the innovation it is capable of.
Establishing that your patented product can influence comparable products, and evolutions of that product, is the basis of successful revenue generation from your previously established rights and IP. Companies that produce an omelet following processes derived from your work must consider your ownership of the rights to that IP.
Being proactive about your intellectual property strategy can mean the difference between owning or not owning the rights to an original invention.
It’s the basis for a good piece of fiction, but it very much is a real thing that entrepreneurs face around the world: similar ideas, similar inventions, but one team filed their patent before the other.
You can spend hours every day at your real job and many sleepless nights trying to hash something out. You’ve read about and have done everything you can to avoid the most common patent mistakes. Long weeks have been spent researching about the industry you’re inventing for.
It could be something original, something that can innovate a whole industry. But if someone else files before you do, whether that is days or years in advance, it can take the wind out of the sails for any start-up.
At O’Brien Patent Solutions, we can help you avoid such setbacks, performing extensive research on existing patents and products on the market that could affect your work. We also help businesses protect any established rights and intellectual properties from theft. Call us today at (916) 760-8265, reach out to our office through our online contact form, and set up a consultation!