What Is A Patent Strategy (And Why Is It Important?)
“Patent strategy” is a term you’ll frequently encounter as a startup founder, CTO, or engineering lead, but without prior exposure, it can be confusing to know what it encompasses and, more critically, why it’s important. In fact, you might even ask: why not simply file a patent for your minimum viable product and call it a day?
This misconception can set startups back—research has found a significant positive correlation between strategic patent protection, the size of future fundraising rounds, and the likelihood of acquisition. That said, here’s what you need to know about patent strategies.
What Is A Patent Strategy?
A patent strategy is more than just a list of patents you plan on filing; instead, it’s a coordinated combination of subject matter, timing, and context. Ideally, it should include the following:
A mapping of product features to company priorities. Your patent agent should help you design a patent plan that identifies the key features and competitive differentiators of current and future products. By aligning core technologies with company priorities, you can better determine the relative value of each; for startups with limited patent budgets, this mapping makes it easier to prioritize and focus on technologies with the highest potential ROI.
A detailed timeline for when each patent should be written and filed. This schedule not only guarantees that you’re filing your patent applications on time but also prevents you from accidentally exposing your technologies to the public before filing the associated patent application. (These unintended public disclosures can jeopardize your patent rights to the technology or necessitate rushed patent applications that don’t achieve your intended objectives.)
The “why” behind your product. How does each invention improve people’s lives? How does each feature contribute to the greater function of your product? How does each technology further your company’s goals? Answers to these questions are instrumental in convincing the U.S. Patent Office that your technology is worth patenting. Beyond that, including this important context in your patent portfolio demonstrates to potential investors and other stakeholders the value your technology adds to your company, the broader market, and the world.
Why Are Patent Strategies Important?
It might be tempting to find a patent practitioner and request they file a patent on your first prototype. However, without a meaningful patent strategy, this usually results in a single, catch-all patent application that throws everything at the wall to see what sticks—which frequently results in nothing sticking.
Unfortunately, these catch-all patent applications are often the default for larger law firms accustomed to working with established tech companies with in-house patent counsel. While these law firms are great for drafting, filing, and prosecuting individual patents, they may assume you’ve already designed a patent strategy and therefore provide scant guidance regarding the what, when, and why of your patent portfolio.
Instead, developing a cohesive patent strategy not only helps you communicate your intentions within your industry but can also be a valuable resource for pitching investors, raising capital, and finding collaboration opportunities—all while deterring your competition and establishing your presence as an innovator in your space.
Get Started With Your Patent Strategy
Given the risks of a poor or absent patent strategy, startups must sit down with their patent agents and plan their portfolios from the ground up. Because your patent strategy can signal to stakeholders that you plan on taking IP seriously, it’s well worth the effort to begin the process even before you bring your first product to market or obtain the monetary resources to file your first patent application.
Ready to explore what your startup’s patent strategy may look like? Book a free consultation with us today.