Question :
Hello, we have a startup that is looking for seed investment. We are at the stage where prospective investors want to know that our idea is unique and defendable, before they will invest. But we need the investment to pay for an IP lawyer….my question is, what is the leanest way to get to IP protection for a product concept? 

Question submitted 01/09/20 @ 01:50pm
Industry: Start-ups
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      Hi there – what is the leanest way to get IP protection? Do the freedom to operate searching yourself, draft the patent yourself and then file it yourself. Once you have filed it, you have (I believe) up to 12 months to finalise the patent, and after that you have another 18 months to file the international patents in the regions that you want to cover. Obviously there are fees for filing at each stage. I have just made the assumption that you might be patenting – but there are other options for IP protection from trade secret, to copyright to even registered designs.

      One of the first things to do, which is super hard when you are at ideation stage is working out ‘where is the value in your concept’ – because typically you want or need to see how the market of users actually engages with your product concept – what they like, what they want to buy, what makes them choose your concept over others – often I have seen people patent a concept then when they actually start going to market and engaging with users they see that there is ‘demand’ and ‘interest’ in areas that are not quite aligned to the IP protection. So finding ways to engage with users, without breaching the IP to get feedback and guidance on what problem you are solving and what solution people in your target market value is pretty important.

      Obviously, the costs come up when you engage a patent or IP lawyer to help you frame up the IP protection strategy – having said that, I would say a good IP lawyer has amazing experience, guidance and direction – they are worth it if you can afford it.

      To your point on investment – it is tough right, another way to think about it, what ‘evidence’ of demand can you get from target users and customers, that gives you and the investor confidence that your product concept is ‘onto it’ so that they could invest? Another option is that you file the IP protection yourself?

      Have you talked to any IP lawyers yet to get input into what your protection strategy might be? Andy

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      It would be worth speaking with Simon Rowell from Innovation Liberation Front. He used to be a partner at a big firm, then branched off on his own specifically to help startups etc. Good guy too. His email is: simon@ilfhq.com and the website is: http://www.ilfhq.com/



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      Thanks Richard. Carberry, there are some Callaghan Innovation funding options for getting an IP strategy developed. They are 40% funded, so you pay 60%. I offer the Innovation IP programme. The entry point is your local Regional Business Partner, but I’m happy to help you if you’d like to make contact. Whilst it is technically possible to draft and file your own provisional patent application it is not recommended. What can happen is you do not provide sufficient support in the provisional for the claims that you ultimately want in the complete application. This can result in you losing your priority date, which in turn can lead to not obtaining the protection At all or at least a useful scope of protection. Investors are interested in whether you have freedom to operate – that is will you infringe on third party rights, and secondly, is there a protectable position (not necessarily having that protection in force at that time, although obviously that is preferable for both them and for your peace of mind).

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