How to Develop a Killer Patent Strategy

patents

Patent strategy can be a confusing but important part of growing your startup. Photo via flickr.

Are you protecting your healthcare product so other companies don’t copy it? Are you working to prevent potential competitors from introducing innovations that could compete with your product?

We recently caught a session called “Develop a Killer Patent Strategy to Achieve Your End Game” featuring Lisa Adams, a member of the intellectual property practice at Mintz Levin, where she addressed these concerns. Adams spoke at UMass Lowell on December 3, 2014. The event was organized by the Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center (M2D2), a joint initiative of the Lowell and Worcester medical school campuses of the UMass system.

A few things we learned:

Clarify your end game.

Decide early on if you’re planning on building your company or looking to sell your technology to another company to bring to market. This matters because companies might want to seriously reconsider investing in trademarking brands, according to Adams. Once those products are acquired by another company, that company will probably re-brand them anyway.

Learn the fundamentals of intellectual property law.

Adams touched on some of these fundamentals, including patents, trademarks, trade secrets, copyrights and know-how. A word to the wise: Patent rights allow you to prevent others from using your invention; they don’t provide a right for you to use your own invention.

Define your strategy: Offense or defense?

Offensive or blocking strategies should also be a key component in any healthcare innovator’s legal toolbox, Adams said. Offensive strategies can help you protect your technology against others copying it. Another approach is more defensive in nature and involves stopping your competitors from practicing technology that could compete with yours by protecting improvements or design variations. You could even opt to prevent your competitors from improving their own technology.

Early on, you don’t know the value of your defensive tactics, Adams said. Later on, if you decide to sell to another company, there will be value for your early investors.

Prepare for product & company evolution.

Early on, you won’t have massive amounts of money to spend on patent applications. That’s why you have to be selective. It’s important that you determine which patents will pay off the most, realizing that you may have to hedge your bets. So create a strategy that’s in line with your game plan, but realize that this strategy is going to change with your company’s evolving goals.

Your product will change over time, too, so you should try to map out those changes, considering various use cases and markets where you want to sell your product. Some markets will be worth focusing on; smaller markets won’t be worth as much muscle.

Don’t forget regular meetings with your patent attorney, too.

Monitor your patent strategy on a quarterly basis, Adams advised. These strategies are fluid, so you should sit down regularly with your patent attorney and talk about what’s changed.

Aine Cryts

Aine Cryts

    Aine (“ONya”) Cryts is an on-staff contributing writer for MedTech Boston. She's a political scientist by education, a writer and marketer by trade. She has written for various healthcare technology publications and also served as marketing director at several healthcare software companies in the Boston area. Cryts is an avid volunteer, pet lover and long-distance runner. Story ideas are always welcome.

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