HomeTechHow startups can protect their IP: 8 tips from a patent attorney

How startups can protect their IP: 8 tips from a patent attorney

For tech startups, the most valuable assets are often invisible.  While businesses were traditionally built on physical resources, the contemporary economy is increasingly driven by intangibles. The chip firm Arm, for instance, earned a $40 billion valuation and a reputation as the UK’s leading tech company — despite never manufacturing a single chip. Instead, the company designs the processor architecture that’s used in countless devices.

This intellectual property-based business model has transformed stock markets. In 1985, under a third of all assets in the S&P 500 were classed as intangible by 2020, that proportion had risen to around 90%. Startups, however, can overlook IP protection in their initial plans.

According to Robert Lind, a patent attorney at IP firm Marks & Clerk, they’re taking a major risk. Lind recently wrote an e-book on how to protect and monetize their intellectual property. He shared his top tips with TNW.

1. Start your research ASAP

According to Lind, tech firms often neglect IP until their business is exposed to creative and financial peril. He advises them to start their research before they really need it.

Naturally, Lind suggests their study material includes his e-book. But he doesn’t recommend relying on professional advisors at every turn.

“Arm yourself with the knowledge at the outset, so you know when to bring in the experts — and when you don’t need to bring them in,” says Lind. 

For tech startups, patents are the primary form of IP that can be protected. Founders should educate themselves on what a patent is, how to get them, how they’re enforced, and how third-party patents can be interpreted.

2. Keep it confidential

It should go without saying that your brilliant idea should be kept private, but that’s easier said than done. 

“​​Going public doesn’t just mean selling a product,” says Lind. “It could mean presenting a conference paper, publishing an article in a journal, or putting some information on your website. Be very careful about publishing your ideas before you’ve taken a view on whether something’s patentable.”

3. Diligently identify your innovations

Innovations are the lifeblood of patents, but they’re not always easy to identify. Many researchers and engineers don’t realize that their work could be valuable IP. 

“It’s very important that you have regular reviews internally and milestones in your project plans to consider what innovations have been made and whether or not they should be patented,” says Lind.