Day number who knows what number in the Covid world and I am taking a line from my Peloton instructor (probably borrowed from someone else originally) – Climb the mountain to see the world.

I am 4+ years into my own startup adventure.  Ingensity IP now has two employees (check it out on the Ingensity website).  Clients have come, others have gone.  I have learned quite a bit over the past 4 years. And I am still climbing that mountain.  It is super fun, and I am definitely seeing the world of startups in the biotech arena.

The climb for a startup is an interesting one.  It varies by product space and certainly by perspective.  What I see is primarily through IP-tinted glasses.  I have some exposure to the business, regulatory and financial pressures, but mostly I look through a lens of how it impacts the IP strategy of the company.

Each phase tends to run with certain themes, some in direct contradiction to each other.

The early times – Can we own the world?  Is there any path forward at all?

The early expansion phase – So many opportunities!  Wow, this gets expensive!

The middle years – Opportunity knocks but should we answer? Who is the right dancing partner?  Do we go it alone?  Can we stay focused?

From an IP portfolio perspective, these views translate into different approaches and considerations for IP strategy.  For example, in the early times, there is one viewpoint that sees no one out there and believes the company will easily “own the space” and create blocking IP to keep everyone out.  Then there is the opposing view that sees threats lurking in every corner; every published patent application, valid or not, is a stop sign.  Neither of these views is likely accurate or an ideal perspective for a fledgling startup.

Eyes wide open is important.  It is rare that no one is playing in the same space, particularly if the technology area holds any value.  Best to take a realistic look at what has been previously published and shape your IP filings with a decent dose of realism.  At the same time, you likely got into the game because you have something new and fresh to offer.  Capitalize on those unique aspects and frame your IP goals with that in mind.  Don’t let others playing in the same sandbox scare you off.  Consider how you will track the IP landscape in which your technology and products sit.  Think then about the differentiating factors your company brings to this topography – are you making the most of those features?

As things get going, the world opens up.  More funding often means more resources, more projects and expansion of existing directions.  This can lead to great opportunities to build and deepen your IP portfolio.  Platform tools can deepen and focus into new product-specific filings. And suddenly, patent filings and prosecution are going fast and furious.  How’s that budget looking?  Remember to factor growth into your IP budget – no longer just provisional patent application filings, you will have PCT applications, national phase with translation costs, attorney fees in multiple countries and yearly annuities.

Further maturation moves the company into its middle years.  This growth brings new possibilities and often a broader scope.  Relationships of all kinds may start to play a larger role.  These can be partnerships for product development, alliances for manufacturing and arrangements for product testing.  Joint efforts can create a variety of different IP-related scenarios.  Some demand sharing of IP.  Others are fraught with the tensions of sharing trade secret methods. Consider the goals and issues of each relationship. Think about how it will work in the best of times and how it will unwind in the worst of times.

What does this all amount to?  Viewpoint.  There are challenges; there are opportunities; there are threats.  In some cases, these all arise from the same source. It’s just in how you see them.  Climb the mountain, take in the vista, and keep your eyes on where you are headed.


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