Do Startups Need Patents? Rigorous Study Presents Real Data on Startup Company Patenting Behavior

As an IP Strategy advisor, I am often asked by the leadership of startup companies what the return on investment is from patenting.  While I can confidently provide recommendations as an expert, my opinions are anecdotal based on my almost 20 years experience as an IP professional.  Certainly, I have advised a number of startup companies over the years for which comprehensive patent coverage was critical to financial and market success.  On the other hand, I have advised a much larger number of startup companies over the years where patenting made little difference to their fortunes. The subjective nature of IP advice holds for other patent professionals.  Our respective years of experience results in tacit knowledge that becomes “expertise.”   This expertise guides clients to us for advice and allows them to trust in our counsel.   Missing from my knowledge base–as well as that of my IP attorney peers–have been data-driven assessments of whether, when and to what extent patents really matter to start up success. Similarly, startup companies are typically inundated with the advice of peers, mentors and investors about whether patenting is recommended in a particular business situation.  Such non-specialist expertise is even more fraught with subjectivity Continue Reading →

A Startup Company’s Experiences with Open Innovation-Part 2: Adventures of a Chief Frog Kisser

After many years of counseling small companies on how to license their technology to large companies as an IP attorney, the tables are now turned.  My new role is as CEO of a startup company with breakthrough battery charging technology available for licensing.  I am finding that many of the things I knew to be true as an expert, really aren’t true at all now that I am an entrepreneur.  This is the second post in what I hope will be an ongoing narrative that tells of my journey through the world of Open Innovation as we attempt to find one or more licensing partners for our company’s breakthrough battery fast charging technology.  (The first post is here.) One piece of advice that I knew even before embarking on this entrepreneurial journey that was absolutely not true was”build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.”  As I have written about before, ideas themselves mean little when 90 % or more of the “better mousetraps” covered by patents are worthless.  So, I knew that our technology destined to become “shelfware” unless we did something to get our name out there.  An old friend with sales experience Continue Reading →

We’re Measuring the Wrong Things: Inventiveness and Patents Do Not Equal Innovation

Few things infuriate me more than supposed experts who make statements along the lines of “patents are critical to innovation.”  I have avoided stating my views widely in this forum because I didn’t want to get into a contest of one upmanship with my patent lawyer peers.  However, in the last couple of weeks, several pieces of information have hit my radar screen that make this seem like the right time to go public with my views. Let my position be very clear:  we create a false dichotomy when saying “innovation is not possible without patents.”  The issue is much more complex and nuanced than this:  in a particular instance, patents may be critical to innovation, but they might also be only slightly important or–likely in the majority of situations–they might be wholly irrelevant to innovation.  (I talk more about this in this recent interview in Innovation Management Magazine.) Unfortunately, where you stand also depends on where you sit, and sitting behind a desk writing or examining patents may color your belief that patents are the cure for America’s innovation ills.  (The cynic would likely note that relying on a patent practitioner or the Commissioner of the US Patent Office Continue Reading →

Beware of Bogus Patent Analytics: Forward-Citation Analysis Leads to False Conclusions about Significance of Client’s Patent

Patent application filing and issuance data can be a useful tool to extract valuable competitive business information that is “hiding in plain sight.”  For example, in industries where patents are viewed as pertinent for creating and protecting long term value, patent filing data can present a strong signal about where your competitors are investing their time and money in innovation that may result in their future product or technology offerings.  In another example, such data analysis, also known as “patent analytics” or “patent landscaping,” can provide useful information about potential new markets for your company’s technology.  In this regard, for example, a chemical manufacturer can review how others are utilizing their products by reviewing patent filings.  For patent owners, analytics can reveal whether infringement may be occurring or whether it might have a higher value using forward citation analysis, which is a review of how many times a patent is cited in the later record of other patents. Various flavors of patent analytics are offered by any number of companies today.  As a corporate IP attorney, I purchased such products, which certainly do not come cheap.  In the last couple of years, I have also evaluated a number of these products to see whether they can provide value to my IP Strategy clients.  Continue Reading →

An IP Strategist’s Economic Forecast for 2010: An Outsider’s View and How One Can Outperform the “Experts”

In remembrance of the 1 year anniversary of the Financial Meltdown, Forbes.com has included me in a list of bloggers asked to provide an economic forecast for 2010 and also to provide some insights as to what economic markers I use in my work.  This is an interesting assignment for me:  few who know me would consider me to be an economist and, indeed, such training was wholly absent from my many years of college, graduate and law school.  This might actually be a good thing, however, because, as discussed in this recent Robert Lezner StreetTalk post, none of the so-called “experts”–even those at the highest levels of power and prestige (except perhaps Dr. Nouriel Roubini)–predicted the financial instability that would result from Wall Street’s increasing reliance on innovative, high yield financial instruments.  Notwithstanding the vast reliance put on financial expertise, based on the results of the last couple of years, it now seems like financial predictions are akin to what William Goldman said about entertainment experts who are paid to forecast whether a movie will be a blockbuster:  “Nobody knows anything.”  Since none of the highly compensated experts successfully predicted the performance of the financial markets in recent years, certainly my lack of expertise on the subject should not bar Continue Reading →

IP Quality Must be a Key Feature in Any Financial Product Based on IP Assets

Neil Wilkof of the great IP Finance blog brought up a couple of interesting issues in his latest blog post entitled Securitization of IP: Urban Legend, or Playing Soon in a Theatre Near You? Specifically, he wonders if the desire for innovative (and not discredited) financial products today will result in the emergence of IP securitization as a model for raising capital and, if so, if the there will be a place for IP professionals in the process of valuing such IP.  I recommend Neil’s post to anyone who is interested in how IP assets might be leveraged to create opportunities outside of the usual protection of the IP owner’s products and technology. Moreover, I agree with Neil’s view that if IP is going to be a recognized as a means to raise capital, improvements have to be made in the way finance and IP professionals interact. Put simply, if IP forms the basis upon which companies raise money, the quality of the IP must be well understood so as to allow development of a reality-based risk profile for the transaction.  This cannot be accomplished without putting someone who understands IP in the center of the process. To use a simple Continue Reading →

Start-up Entrepreneurs & CEO’s: If Your Goal is Investment or Acquisition, You are Probably Patenting the Wrong Things

Do you treat your patents as a fence or a tollbooth? If you wish for your start-up technology company to obtain investment from or acquisition by a bigger player, you had better understand the difference. Most start-up technology company entrepreneurs and CEO’s understand that patents can be key to establishing the value of a new business idea. Typically, entrepreneurs and CEO’s such as yourself will engage patent attorneys to build an IP portfolio that protects the start-up’s technology and products to the fullest extent possible. The motivation for this effort and expense is, of course, to to protect your start-up’s idea from use by others. As management of a start-up you may be seeking to build an ongoing business around the patented technology, but often the goal of building a solid patent portfolio is to make your business an attractive target for investment or acquisition by a larger company. I believe that such an inwardly focused patenting strategy is a misguided approach for companies that wish to obtain investment from or be acquired by larger companies. Why do I think this? Let me use a simple analogy. Tweet This Buzz This Delicious Digg This Reddit Stumble This

50% of Venture Capital Investment is Lost: How Your Clients Can Improve These Odds by Using the Right Patent Analytics

THE SKINNY ON THE QUALITY OF VENTURE CAPITAL-RELATED INVESTMENT DECISIONS If you are a counselor of venture capital firms or entrepreneurs who owning start-up companies that are targets of venture capitalists, you might already be familiar with the high rate of failure associated with such investments. Nonetheless, you may be surprised to find out that 50% of all money invested in venture capital is a loss. This figure, which is based upon separate research projects by a Chicago Graduate School of Business (“GSB”) professor and a former Chief Economist at the Securities and Exchange Commission, indicates that the actual return on venture capital investment is not much different from the average annualized returns on the smallest NASDAQ stocks. In particular, the return on venture capital investment from 1987 to 2001 in these smallest stocks was 62% as compared to the 59% mean return of venture capital funds. This 59% figure certainly does not reflect the investing public’s general perception that venture capital return on investment markedly outweighs what one can obtain on the stock market. And, it is this apparently erroneous assumption of perceived higher return that presumably justifies the higher risks your venture capital and entrepreneurial clients associate with Continue Reading →

The IP Zone: A New Concept for Introducing Needed Information and Efficiencies into the Patent Monetization Market

Many corporations and entrepreneurs today understand that patents are increasingly bought, sold and traded, just like many other assets. However, the patent monetization market is only just emerging and, as a result, few information sources exist today to assist patent owners in selling their patents. The nascent nature of the industry also means that most patent owners do not themselves possess the necessary expertise to successfully monetize their patents. Put simply, today, patent monetization is “easier said than done.” In view of the challenges currently faced by patent owners seeking to generate revenue by monetizing their patents, I was intrigued to learn about the “IP Zone” to be established later in 2009 in the Harlem area of New York City. The IP Zone will be physically located at 125st Street and Lenox Avenue in the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, which was established in the mid-1990′s to provide enhanced job and economic opportunities for the residents of this historically low income area of New York City. I heard about the IP Zone from Tracey Thomas, who is currently Chief IP Strategist at American Express. As Mr. Thomas related the origins of the IP Zone project, under his supervision, American Express has Continue Reading →

Proposal for a Reality-Based Methodology for Measurement of Corporate Intangible Asset Value

In recent years, financial analysts came to believe that intangible asset value forms an increasing aspect of overall corporate value. These experts generally agreed that intangible asset value made up at least 70 % of the total market cap of the average corporation, an increase of an estimated 20 % in 1975. Not surprisingly, however, the recent global economic downturn has resulted in a steep decline in the amount of market cap attributed to intangible assets. Experts now say that the current (market adjusted) corporate value attributable to intangible assets is “less than 50 %.” To someone who has toiled in the trenches of intangible asset protection at both the law firm and corporate levels, the at least 70 % generalization always possessed a sense of being pulled out of the air, as does the new sub-50 % number. I now understand that these values emanated from nothing more than a “guesstimation” of total corporate value that analysts believe should be accorded to an asset class that they do not fully understand. Put simply, analysts understood that corporate intangible asset value should amount to “a whole bunch” and they assigned a suitably large figure to allow calculation of that unknown Continue Reading →