Tuesday, May 12, 2009

IP, Patents and investment

I've been heavily restricted in what I can write about as we don't have good IP protection in place yet, and without that any prior publication will prevent us getting patents in place, we didn't think that was an issue but for investors it's a show stopper. I've had a chance to speak to a few professionals about this and we now have a plan.

The most useful part of the exercise is a strong identification of where our IP value is - yes what we're doing is unique/novel etc, but a great deal of our technology is already out there. So we can make public those parts of what we're doing without risk. The trick is to identify exactly what is our unique technology - and that process has now been done, we have a clear idea of what we need to protect today.

Initially we were happy to go forward without getting patents. That was true for a number of reasons - the main one being how hard they are to enforce, also the need for others to build on our foundations - we don't want to scare off partners and developers. Realistically not having a patent will not affect our bottom line 1c in the short term. However, without patents in progress our likelihood of investment is much reduced, so we're going to have to go round the loop again.

Based on professional advice, our current thinking is as followss :-

1) Use www.google.com/patents for our searching, why pay for a professional to do that for us?
2) Base our patent submission format from 'good' patents on google. By submitting ourselves the cost is trivial, but of course there's a good chance that our application will be less than perfect. By basing our format on an existing patent from a top notch company, say Apple we should at least have a reasonable patent application.
3) Accepting that our patents may be less than perfect, any investor willing to take the risk, will then have to do due diligence on our submissions. We (they) have 12 months in which to tweak the submission to make it work.

The upshot of this is we can go public with some stuff, get the patent application under way without a large cash outlay, and sell the approach to potential investors. The cost for a professional Australia patent submission is $5-15K, going with this approach will cost us <$1k.

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