You can’t build too much value and the rules at the USPTO have changed since March 16, 2013 from first to invent to first to file … See here for details. At the very least, find out what you can and can’t do.
If you have competition in the market; maybe your competition has not filed patents either? Get informed for “who was first to conceive the idea” no longer matters as much as the first to file at the USPTO. Don’t lose out because you don’t know the facts. Get the facts and talk to the experts and I’ll see you on the 24th.
As many of you know, in my volunteer life, I run the Mentor Program for the MIT Enterprise Forum of Washington, DC and Baltimore. (MITEF) In doing so, I get the privilege of meeting many of the founders within the area’s early stage start-up community. Being located in DC/VA/MD, in close proximity to the federal government, it is no surprise that lot’s of technology innovations and start-up efforts converge on our nation’s capital.
In my position at MITEF, I hear a lot of elevator pitches and business descriptions from start-up founders; with most entrepreneurs I meet being focused on Internet and managed services, cyber-security, mobile and social media applications. Of all these market segments mentioned, most, if not all, of the start-up companies within these sectors are creating a single software application as their companies’ flagship product.
Founders I speak with often say, “I am not the only company doing this (in this space) within the market…” When meeting someone new at one of our events and in trying to understand their business venture; one of the first questions I ask: “Do you have any patents?”. Probing about patents early in the conversation with founders is in the forefront in my thought process because I am definitely a firm believer in competitive advantage in business.
Now, if you ask any attorney, they’d be right in telling you, as general advice, that you can’t patent software or applications. So, many founders hear this advice and go-on to build their companies and build their software products; thinking legal pursuit of IP is an inaccessible path for them… As it is true, you can’t file a patent on software BUT you may file a patent on the innovation the software does or performs… I’ll say no more and leave the discussion to the experts at Fish and Richardson P.C.
One of my favorite business quotes about competitive advantage comes from Warren Buffet: “The key to investing is not how much an industry will affect society or grow, but rather its competitive advantage and the durability of that advantage…”
To me, a patent means a big legal competitive advantage to any business, especially to a start-up; and the durability of that legal business advantage is greater than 20 years.