Many companies, especially those that rely upon or develop technology, will have in place, or should have in place, policies and practices that ensure that intellectual property (IP) is properly created and legally protected.
Entrepreneurs and inventors may not have formal policies and practices, but for sure, they need to have a keen awareness of the importance of IP to:
· Provide barriers to entry of competitors,
· Have an asset that can be valued, and
· Enable a “fortress” of legal protection that provides security to investors.
IDEATION & PROVISIONAL PATENT APPLICATIONS
At the earliest stages of ideation development, one need not be overly critical of any idea; however, before too much time transpires, diligent efforts to further explore the idea and determine its viability must occur.
Ideas and associated inventions that are believed to be innovative, unique, and useful need to be secured by filing one or more provisional patent applications (PPAs). The most important objective of filing a PPA is to secure a priority date, which legally establishes the date for which the invention occurred.
A PPA can be filed in as simple a form as a single piece of paper using handwritten notes with as much description as can be manifested at the time. Ideally, the PPA should contain as much supporting information as possible, especially expected claims.
Once submitted, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will provide the inventor with a document showing receipt of the application along with the priority date.
Subsequent PPAs that expand the description and claims being made can and should be filed. These additional PPAs should be filed as rapidly as possible to better assure that the priority date or dates are well documented. There is no need to file finely prepared, word-processed documents, especially if so doing would create a delay for submission. Time is of the essence.
Obviously, inventors and entrepreneurs expect to secure a future position within a chosen market based on the strength of the innovations, inventions, and patents they are able to secure.
HIRING A PATENT ATTORNEY
Shortly after the initial burst of PPAs is filed, it is well advised that inventors secure the help of a patent attorney and file a PPA that is better prepared and more comprehensive and for which the claims are identified. This PPA would reference prior PPAs and also could be shown to potential investors. While it may be tempting to delay this better-done PPA in deference to a regular patent application, the regular patent application prepared by a patent attorney would benefit from having a greater amount of time devoted to research and writing, to maximize the probability of securing a granted patent. The NPA should be filed within twelve months of the PPA filing date.
The process of ideation, discovery, innovation, invention, and the filing of PPAs can continue for as long as the inventor or entrepreneur wishes; however, in most situations, there is an urgency to continue forward with new venture development. It is important to keep in mind that the value of the early-stage company is heavily dependent upon its portfolio of IP, principally granted patents and patents in process.
OTHER FORMS OF IP
Of course, some technology and ideas may be best kept as trade secrets. For instance, the exact formulation of chemicals, sequencing and types of processes, and other types of technology which is easily duplicated in a clandestine environment (e.g., outside of the US) may be better kept as trade secrets. Designs and aesthetic and visually technical details are better kept protected as patents. Names intended for branding should be trademarked and important literature and technical presentations should be routinely copyrighted. Not all countries respect the role of trademarks and copyrights, but they should be used for protection with the US.
Never forget the important role of IP!
***Rocky Richard Arnold provides strategic corporate and capital acquisition advice to early-stage companies founded by entrepreneurs wishing to successfully commercialize high-value-creation opportunities, ideas, and/or technologies. More information about Rocky can be found at www.rockyrichardarnold.com. His book, The Smart Entrepreneur: The book investors don’t want you to read, is available for purchase on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/pv248qq. Financial software for use by startups can be purchased on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00K2KPSI2. He posts articles about entrepreneurship on his blog at http://thesmartentrepreneur.blogspot.com. Connect with Rocky on Twitter @Rocky_R_Arnold; Facebook at www.facebook.com/rocky.r.arnold; Google+ at www.google.com/+RockyArnold01.