The Intellectual Property Of StartUps Part 2


A budding entrepreneur usually starts his journey with a bagful of ideas, a pocket full of dreams and a wallet full of pennies!! Though the ultimate goal would be to have bags full of green paper, among other things, that could be a rough ride, if certain premises and parameters are not taken care of.

In as much as there could be a lack of awareness amongst fresh entrepreneurs about IP and IPR, they are also cash strapped or boot strapped as the term goes. As a first-time entrepreneur, the interest would be, what one should watch out for, in one’s business, to protect, how one can protect it and furthermore, what is the cost of IP protection going to be. As a corollary to the latter, if one does not take care of IP, what does one lose?

To start with, it’s ideal to engage the services of an IP strategist who works in tandem with the creators and the lawyers to formulate an IP strategy for the startup which is aligned with its objectives. The functions of this team are manifold. Primarily it analyses and validates the idea of the product or service in detail, even before the product or the service has been formulated. This allows the startup to actually build a product/service which has good IP value. It also conducts a clearance survey for domain names, logos, and product names which may have already been used by some other company. These pre-emptive measures give the company enough time to prepare an entire portfolio, encompassing every asset for which IP rights can be sought and acquired. This accords several advantages to the startup in the long run. It creates a good IP which makes it easier to raise funds and later, enhances the exit value of the company. The company can file for complete rights over the specific product and/or similar products and deter rival companies from setting up competition with similar products or similar solutions. From the defensive standpoint, this move also shields the company against future litigations from competitors for inadvertent copyright or patent infringement or from filing for competing technology.

In cases when the IP strategist is called to join the team after the product or the service has been created, the process of creating a good IP becomes challenging. A different strategy is then adopted. An audit is conducted to find out what products or services are liable for protection as intellectual property and relevant measures are then taken.

Despite the many obvious advantages of a pre-formulation IP strategy, many startups do not take cognizance of their IP and/or do not wish to take steps to ensure its protection until it’s too late. The reason being cited by many, is that acquiring IP protection is cumbersome and exceedingly expensive. And startups which typically do not have adequate funds or for startups where IP is not the core idea of the business, it does not seem worth the whole exercise, as products or services have a transient shelf life. By the time IP protection is acquired, the product or the service may no longer be valid. But settling litigations normally prove to be a far more expensive affair than investing in an IP strategy.

Very recently, in this month, the Government of India has launched Scheme for Facilitating Startups Intellectual Property Protection (SIPP) to promote awareness and encourage IPR protection amongst Startups.

So, armed with all this information, the idea would be to develop a cost effective portfolio, weigh the pros and cons of filing for IPs and know that a stitch in time saves nine!

I do hope that these two simple blogs have served to open a tiny window in the minds of entrepreneurs, which in turn could open wider doors, to let in the waves of abundance, in life!
Have a great life ahead!