This is a series of guest articles by Brenda Matanga on Intellectual Property and its impact on innovators and entrepreneurs
Every tech entrepreneur’s heart lies the dream of converting their intellectual capital into a huge pay check. After many sleepless nights of working on what you hope is a million dollar project in your own “Silicon Valley”, one becomes desperate to take that idea off the ground and pitch it to potential investors. As one engages investors, vendors, project partners or even employees; it is very important to safeguard one’s idea or the innovative solution or product stemming from that idea lest all that effort comes to naught.
The reality is that every company strives to cut costs or to incur no cost at all when acquiring intellectual property (IP) assets. Capitalism is ruthless and doesn’t look out for the interests of the creators of innovative products or solutions. Whilst a few principled companies will pay you for the true value of your innovative product or service, most large corporations would rather usurp the idea from at no cost and implement it themselves. As an intangible good, intellectual property is susceptible to theft and start-ups are vulnerable to this because they don’t have the financial resources to commercialise their products and they can’t afford to sue these big companies if their intellectual property is stolen.
Before you approach a potential investor, it is important to obtain the necessary intellectual property law protection for your product or service as this enhances your bargaining power. Intellectual property lawgives you the essential legal cover in protecting your ideas through patents, copyright, trade secrets and trademarks. The writer will discuss patents briefly then the other available options in the next articles to this series.
If a product /solution is novel, involves an inventive step and is industrially applicable; one can obtain a patent for it. A patent is basically a document issued upon application by a government office or regional office (acting for several countries), which describes an invention and creates a legal situation in which a patented invention can only be exploited (i.e. manufactured, used, sold, imported) with the authorization of the owner of the patent.It gives you an exclusive right to prevent others from commercially exploiting an invention without your permission for 20 years. You may part with a few dollars and cents in the patenting process but if an idea is bankable, it should get you a good return on your investment.
Be warned, the capitalist jungle is brutal, it has no respect for small players with just an idea but no capital to turn that idea into a product/service. Accordingly, it is extremely important to cover your back and ensure that your idea is safeguarded by using intellectual property law to secure it.
image via heinonline.blogspot.com