Aug 17, 2020

IP for startups – what does an investor look for when it comes to your IP rights?

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Protection of intellectual properties (IP) such as your patents, brands and designs can be strategically crucial not only for large corporates. It might hide large values also for startup and scale-up companies. Studies find that small and medium sized companies with IP protection programs has a 20% better chance to succeed with their growth plans, compared to equal sized companies without IP protection programs.

Being protected does not necessarily equal to a company with numerous of protection plans for patents and brands. It’s just as much about knowledge, simply knowing about your own intellectual properties in your company. This includes knowing and considering what properties needs a protection plan, why that is and how it should be protected. If you are next level, you also have your competition under control: what patents do they own?

Most investors with a serious investment plan will question your patent protection programs. And as long as you have them under control, you can use them as an asset not only financially but also to make your company a attractive object for investment.

An investor normally looks for something unique when they look to invest in new companies. Normal questions you could face might be ‘why should we invest in your company?’. Owning your patens and IP rights is an effective tool to emphasize that your company is unique and that you have time to secure market shares.

Some of the questions an investor might ask:

  • Does your company have a clear IP strategy?
  • Does your company own any IP rights?
  • Does your company know the market, competition and the current demand?

IP Strategy

Having a clear IP strategy is an important factor to attract investors. This could be anything from knowledge about what values should be patent protected, to what level of protection your competition have on their rights. Did you know that you can even use IP rights to negotiate partnerships cross competition? That way you could avoid future conflicts.

A clear IP strategy is therefor an important factor in the overall strategy and should definitely be both aligned and integrated in your business strategy.

What properties should you protect?

This obviously depends on the company, what industry you operate in, what products you offer, the technology you use and the competition. So unfortunately, there is no standard answer. Meanwhile, let’s introduce you to the three different categories you might register your IP rights under:

  • Brand: this protects for example your name and logo.
  • Design: this protects the appearance of your product.
  • Patent: this protects a technology you have developed.

An example could be patent, which is more relevant for companies that develops a technology that fills a new and unique function. Design protection on the other hand, is important if your product relates to graphic or physical products that are unique in the way they are developed and designed. For those who have a critical relation between the product you sell and the brand you relate your product to, protecting your brand could be recommended. In fact, almost all companies have a brand they could protect to some extent. As you know, most companies have their own name hence also their own logo and brand.

In addition to these properties, there are many examples of other properties you might own that are not as easy to protect:

  • Copyrights: pictures, books, movies etc.
  • Internal business secrets.
  • Know-Hows.
  • Negotiated deal with employees, partners and suppliers.

Even if it’s not possible to register these properties, the way you handle ownership to them should be included in your strategy work. Investors often look at the relationship between these properties, and patents, brands and design. An example could be that a product might have levels that could be protected in different ways, some as a brand, some as a patent and some simply as a know-how.

The Competition

In many cases it is important to know what kind of competition you have. Specially when it comes to IP rights. If you interfere with you competitors protected right, at worst it might be the end of your company. And the odds are you are in for a long, costly and resourceful legal process.

At last, you might not need a full Freedom to Operate (FTO) research in your company. But let’s just say that you should know about your biggest competitors and if they have any IP rights you should know of. Without this knowledge, it’s easy to take the wrong choices going forward.

To learn more about IP rights and how to secure them, join our community event:

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