A recurring concern voiced by small or emerging companies working in the government marketplace is, “How do I effectively protect my IP when I’m forced to work with large prime contractors?” A threat is perceived that a prime contractor will take or steal the IP from a subcontractor (small company) to eliminate competition or capture leverage with the government and that the government turns a blind eye to such actions.
You have to know the rules to win the game, especially when the rules change… often. In 2013, the movie Captain Philips told the true story of the hijacking of the Maersk Alabama. In April 2009, the Maersk Alabama cargo ship was attacked and captured by four Somali pirates less than 300 nautical miles off the Coast of Somalia. The Maersk Alabama recognized the threat yet had little ability to repel the assault.
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.
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.”
Why should research and development (R&D) teams or organizations care about patents? The answer might surprise you. A recent report by Forbes states that each year R&D introduces more than 250,000 new products into the marketplace. Of those, 66% will fail within the first two years.
In Part 2 of this series, we discussed the need to valuate your IP assets as well as the methods you can use to achieve this end. This final segment focuses on the rubber-meets-the-road question of what kinds of protection should be used for each IP asset and how much should be spent on that protection.