A Branding Lesson for the Lean Startup Entrepreneur

I recently spoke to 2 different startup entrepreneurs who explained to me that each had “a brand that needed protecting.”  To each, this meant that they intended to focus their sales and marketing efforts on customers who fit image they saw as befitting their respective products.  While I was intrigued by the products and the amount of work each had done to date, I am afraid to say that if these entrepreneurs stay with their present mindset that only certain customers are desirable, each will fail.  Full stop. For one of these entrepreneurs whose product had already launched, brand protection meant that he was trying to dissuade “undesirable” customers:  apparently truck drivers LOVED his product and it was flying off the shelves at C-stores in which the test launch was conducted.  This entrepreneur perceived these sales as a huge problem because he saw his product as high end and “above” the truck driver market.  Indeed, in its marketing collateral and packaging the product was presented as high quality and upscale.  When placed in front of customers, however, it was apparent that the upscale buyer to whom the product was directed showed little interest, but that less affluent consumers—here truck drivers—found Continue Reading →

Patents–Who Needs Them? Not Most Startup Entrepreneurs.

A recent article in TechCrunch indicates that entrepreneurs are less likely to file patents than in the past.   Nonetheless, there remain countless patent lawyers and agents who will argue convincingly that an entrepreneur must obtain a patent in order to succeed and who will take their $5-15K to file a darned good patent application that won’t provide them a bit of business value in the long run. Even worse, the resources expended in the patent process robs the entrepreneur of needed cash that will allow them to gain customers, and of their most valuable asset: time.  But when the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail–which is why those still in the business of writing patent applications will continue to make their case to entrepreneurs (and investors) who lack the domain expertise to know better. Now that I no longer make money obtaining patents–instead, I am the CEO of a startup battery charging company–I understand that patents are generally a poor way for a startup company to expend scarce resources.  I rarely, if ever, recommend that my startup colleagues file for patent protection for any tech/web-based ventures. Further, when asked what they should do 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 →

A Startup Company’s Experiences with Open Innovation-Part 1: Dealing with a Large Company Having Small Innovation Goals

For the past several months, I have been at the helm of Evgentech, a startup company with game-changing battery charging methodology.  Our technology was developed by young men who did not come from a traditional engineering background and, even then, their discovery was a serendipitous result of the co-founders’ recognition of a new principle stemming from investigations initially directed toward something wholly different from battery charging.  Put simply, Evgentech’s technology would not have been found if anyone–outsider or not–would have been looking for it.  We are now bringing to market the first truly new battery charging paradigm in over 100 years.  To put things in perspective, with Evgentech’s technology, you will be able to charge your batteries in a fraction of the time possible with existing battery charging methodologies, which means you can charge your iPhone to “full” in as little as 20 minutes, as compared to the about 3-5 hours it takes today.  Moreover, our technology is scalable to large format batteries, as well as a wide range of battery chemistries. Not surprisingly, when companies with footprints in battery power find out about us, they are interested in finding out more.  We have recently begun preliminary discussions with a number Continue Reading →

Facebook’s “Trademark Bullying” Should Serve as an IP Strategy Lesson for Startup Entrepreneurs

This week, Facebook’s trademark action against a small online teaching company has been all over the news.  In summary, Facebook contends that TeachBook infringes its trademark rights in the “Facebook” name because, presumably, the “book” part of the name is associated in the minds of the relevant consumer public with the now well-known Facebook brand.  Today, it was reported that Facebook is now trying to own the rights to the “face” part of its name. Most wouldn’t be surprised that the word “book” is used as a part of the name of a multitude of products and services, which would make it appear that Facebook is using its resources to beat up on smaller companies.  The natural response from the layperson is “why is Facebook being such a trademark bully?”   But to someone with experience in IP strategy, the business reasons behind Facebook’s actions are clear. From a legal perspective, Facebook likely has little legal standing to extend its trademark rights in a direction that will allow it own either “face” or “book” as individual aspects of future trademarks in as-yet-introduced third party products or services.  These words are just too non-specific and common to legally signify the source of Continue Reading →

2 Ways to Reduce Open Innovation Risk: Convert the Naysayers and Bring on the Seasoned Veterans

Open Innovation is risky.  It’s like letting a stranger in your house to see what valuables are there for the taking, and letting them keep the key to your secrets even after you finish working with them.  For some, this perception of risk is enough to stop any attempts of Open Innovation in its tracks.  Other corporations respond to the risk by “lawyering up,” which, at a minimum, markedly increases the costs of proceeding or, at worst, causes the relationship to break down before any collaboration can occur.  And I, as IP counsel to a number of corporations in my prior life, must admit to being responsible for shutting down Open Innovation due to my role as IP risk the person responsible for mitigating my clients’ IP risk. After leaving the Friendly Confines of defined roles and responsibilities set out in my corporate and law firm life where it was clear that my job was to stop risky behavior, I now realize that this approach to risk mitigation was, quite simply, wrong-headed and misdirected.  Indeed, halting or slowing third party collaboration as a result of perceived risk is actually more risky than taking the leap into Open Innovation.  I mean, Continue Reading →

IP Strategist on the Radio: 2 Recent Interviews

As my consulting practice becomes ever more busy, blogging must be relegated to times when client work is not pressing–that ever-elusive free time.  But now that Summer is here, free time has been hard to come by–it’s hard to write when at the pool with the kids or driving to Grandma’s house–but I haven’t been totally giving up my outreach.  I recently participated in 2 radio interviews where I discussed the value of IP Strategy for entrepreneurs and inventors. Here I was on the 40 Year Old Business Virgin Radio Show with Dave Savage, Leader and President of The Inventors Association of Georgia and a person named Mohamed who has a really cool entrepreneurial story (sorry I didn’t get his last name).  The hosts of the show, Kile Lewis and Ted Jenkin, are irreverent business advisors, and you should enjoy the show.  (I appear in the first half).   They also made a short follow-up You Tube video (I had no idea I would appear on video and dressed totally inappropriately, but–oh well). I also appeared with Dave Savage on the Community Perspectives Radio Show (link here:  IAG Interview–opens to YouSendIt.com then your media player), along with Narayanan Subramanian.  In Continue Reading →

New Study Reinforces Value of Patents in Venture Capital Investment

Regular readers of the IP Asset Maximizer Blog will know that I am a strong advocate of the use of IP analytics by venture capital investors, as well as others.  Clearly, VC’s need better ways to gauge the appropriateness of an investment when more than 50% of venture investment is a loss. My point of view is based on personal experience with various clients, as well as external review of a few investments that I thought signaled that a review of the IP landscape should have been conducted prior to completing the deal.  So, I was glad to see my opinions backed up by real data.  Specifically, my friends at IP Vision, a patent landscaping and data company originally out of MIT, conducted an extensive study of 9,000 venture backed firms.  The study was done with investors, corporate executives and members of the faculty at MIT Sloan School of Management. Joff Wild discusses provides an overview of the results on his IAM Magazine blog.  (The original article is behind a pay wall at IAM Magazine, but I will post a link to it when it available for review in the future.)  What I find interesting, is that the baseline for Continue Reading →

For Inventor of 21 Patents, Patent Troll Litigation Not Very Lucrative

  Recently, I wrote a post on why I think that patent litigation is not a viable business model for inventors.  Given a realistic deconstruction of the costs and possible damage awards, I concluded that, in most situations, it is not realistic for an inventor to presume that she will “hit the jackpot” by suing infringers and extracting settlement or damage awards.  I obtained some pushback from this post, mostly from patent litigation lawyers, who contend that I am wrong in my view that patent litigation does not pay for inventors.  Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinion, and I respect the views of others, however, no one who objects to my (somewhat) negative view of patent litigation as a business model, has provided me with numbers to discount my economic analysis of patent litigation.  This recent post from The Prior Art blog entitled “Revealed! How Much Money a “Patent Troll” Makes” provides some insight into usually confidential inventor returns when dealing with a patent licensing program.  The underlying patents related to GPS technology and were asserted against several prominent technology companies.  The post gives a rare look into the numbers involved obtained in sending “patent licensing letters” to technology companies.  In Continue Reading →

The NY Times is Wrong: Patent Auctions Do Not Provide Indendent Inventors with “Protection”

Patent auctions will do little to help independent inventors sell their patents Those seeking ways to generate revenue from their patentable ideas will find the recent NY Times article entitled “Patent Auctions Provide Protections for Inventors,” written by Steve Lohr, to be an interesting read.  However, as someone who works with entrepreneurs and corporations wishing to monetize their patent rights, I find it necessary to comment on the assertion that patent auctions can operate to “provide protections” for independent inventors, as well as the underlying premise that these it is generally possible for non-corporate inventors to generate value from their patent rights irrespective of the underlying subject matter of the patents.*  As an initial matter, the NY Times article states that “[independent inventors] can often find themselves in court, battling big corporations, spending piles of money on lawyers and leaving it up to judges and juries to determine the value of their hard-won patents.”  This makes me wonder if the fact-checkers took a break when this article was presented for publication.  The story of the lone “David” inventor battling in court against the evil “Goliath” corporation that steals a patented idea not only does not occur “often,” relative to the number of patents issued each year, it almost never occurs–a Continue Reading →