Every startup has an intellectual property (IP) strategy. For many, it may be as simple as, “I’ll worry about IP after the next funding round.” Whether articulated or not, a startup’s IP strategy says a great deal about how well its leadership is balancing the company’s short-term survival with long-term growth and success.
Did you know that in the U.S., you can legally buy a single-seat ultralight aircraft and attempt to learn to fly it in uncontrolled airspace without a single lesson? But what do you think the odds are that you’ll be able to successfully take off, maneuver and land during that first flight without a mishap, using only online videos and instruction manuals as your training?
Companies often participate in brainstorming sessions. They recognize that through such a process, great inventions are developed and evolve. In a commercial marketplace in which a company gains rights to an invention through employment or contractual agreements, this means to promote and gain new approaches for solving difficult problems is highly accepted, as everyone is working toward a common goal and for a common entity.
This is an unsettled and truly unprecedented time for companies and for individuals. We are each being confronted by COVID-19 in different ways. The pandemic affects our everyday lives, our businesses and our unpredictable futures. We have to live with uncomfortable restrictions on our usual movements and lack of certainty about when things will return to a “normal” that might not be like the “normal” we knew before.
Companies that develop solid IP portfolios during downturns – especially severe downturns – stand to emerge from hard times in much better positions than do those that simply “hunker down and endure”.
Many inventors do not understand a very basic prerequisite to getting a patent: the duty to fully disclose to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) how to make and use the inventor’s invention. The rationale for this requirement is deeply embedded in the U.S. Constitution—through amplifying statutes and case law—the implication of which is this: “You (the inventor) tell us what you know and we (‘the people,’ more specifically, the government) will give you exclusive rights to your invention for a certain duration.”
The government’s implied social contract is that it will, first and foremost, take care of its citizens. So, as the U.S. and the world in general strive to resolve the coronavirus crisis, governments around the globe are motivating their citizens to offer solutions.
Government contractors must proactively negotiate rights among co-collaborators prior to beginning the collaborative process and recognize that the government’s interest in the collaborative workplace may not be aligned with that of each collaborator.
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office 37 CFR Rule 1.56: How Should Patent Applicants Approach Compliance?
All companies should be aware of the Rule and determine at an early stage how inventors should be educated regarding compliance. Often, companies and their patent counsel train inventors to avoid attempting to perform prior art searches or compare their inventions to “what is out there.” This is prudent for a couple reasons.
Trade secrets are often the catch-all category of intellectual property (IP) protection. Patents cover inventions, copyrights protect creative works of expression, trademarks focus on branding and trade secrets… well, they cover the rest.