Intellectual property can be a powerful weapon in your startup’s arsenal. It can protect you from competitors using your technology and dramatically improve the value of your business: if your intellectual property is preventing a big company from doing what it wants, that in itself might be reason enough to acquire you.
In this new series, we chat with Michele Moreland, General Partner at Aventurine, which takes an intellectual property-focused approach to investing. Michele has been at the forefront of intellectual property strategy throughout his career and has been responsible for $3 billion in patent verdicts as a portfolio strategist. As a litigator, Michele has represented some of the most important technology companies of our time, including Qualcomm, Amgen and Nvidia.
So what is IP? Well, it refers to “creations of the mind”, such as inventions, literary and artistic works, designs, symbols, names and images used in business. Some IP is automatic (for example, this article is automatically copyrighted because I wrote it), and others — like trademarks and patents — need to be more actively protected.
In this series, we take a deep dive into the different types of intellectual property — including patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets — seen through the lens of early-stage startups. As a startup founder, what should you think about (where and when, and how much will it cost) when protecting the intellectual property your company creates?
Start with the “why”
“A lot of times people think they just need to get the patent because it ticks a box for VCs,” Moreland said. “But if you really want IP to be scaffolding for the business and potentially create value, and maybe offer support as part of a future release, you need to take a broader view.”
There are many considerations, but it starts with thinking about where your business stands in the market and how much space you occupy relative to your competitors. This involves thinking about the location of your business and that of your potential customers and buyers. You need to think about the types of IP that can support your business and who should be involved in strategy and execution of your approach to IP.
“I think there are some people in the business who are being left out. It may be a mistake. From my litigation experience, I’ve seen that the results might have been different if certain people in marketing had been involved in early conversations about IP,” Moreland said. “From the view at 100,000 feet, the conversation starts with ‘Where are we?’ and ‘Where do we want to go?’”