In April we will be extending our partnership agreement with Startlife, the agrifood accelerator based on Wageningen Campus. Startlife helps early stage technology start-ups to validate their business, find investors and achieve their growth ambitions. Patent protection is crucial at this early stage, so we help the young entrepreneurs with this. In recent years, we have assisted them with patent applications, Freedom To Operate studies and more. And we will continue to do so in the coming years. Many entrepreneurs, both those starting out and more experienced ones, only realise when it is too late just how important it is to talk with a patent attorney at an early stage. There are several good reasons for doing so.
Reason 1: We can identify third party patent rights at an early stage
Many entrepreneurs are so busy developing their product, setting up their business and finding investors that they forget about their competitors' patent rights. You may know who your competitors are, but do you know what their patent rights are? This is a question that investors regularly ask. So you must look into this. You can either do so yourself or have someone else do it for you. However, if you fail to do so, you run the risk of developing a product that infringes someone else's intellectual property rights. This brings me to my next point.
Reason 2: It is still fairly easy to tweak the design
The sooner you know about the patent rights of others, the easier it tends to be to make minor changes to a design and work around existing patents so that you can enter the market without infringing them. It is, of course, also possible to do this at a later stage but it is often much more expensive then. After all, it costs a lot more money to change an entire production line than to modify a concept.
Reason 3: We can discuss R&D results at an early stage
Innovative entrepreneurs often overlook two things in the development process. First of all, they often fail to realise that they are making simple but valuable inventions. Secondly, they sometimes disclose information about new products before they have been patented. In which case, the invention will no longer meet the novelty requirement and they can no longer apply for a patent on it. By discussing the R&D results with a patent attorney at an early stage, you can avoid these pitfalls.
By looking at these things together, we can learn about the inventions that seem obvious to you, and you will not disclose any information you should be keeping to yourself. This will ultimately make your patent portfolio a lot stronger. It will also increase the value of your company and strengthen your position in the market.
Reason 4: We increase the chance of investment
At Startlife, where finding investors is an important goal, we often encounter that a proposition is much more investor ready after a sound check on intellectual property is done. Thanks to their better understanding of the opportunities and threats related to their intellectual property rights, they come across more professionally and have a better grip on the situation. People are more likely to invest in an organisation that knows what it has already done, or wants to do, when it comes to patents.
The sooner you have a meeting with a patent attorney, the more traction you will have on the initial steps of your business. Many people only take this step once their technologies are at a more advanced stage. This may seem logical, but it can ultimately cost a lot more time and definitely money. Even a short meeting with a patent attorney can provide you with so much relevant information for your company that it is well worth the small investment.