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Patent Sooner Not Later

Why Startups Should Patent Now, Not Later: Our Strategy

Lindokuhle Mkhize

Lindokuhle Mkhize

24 November 20233 min read

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why startups should patent now

From 1980 to 2010, patents flew under the radar in terms of media attention. But with big tech companies clashing in legal battles and the rise of technical innovation on the global stage, patents gradually grabbed headlines.

So, what's all this buzz about patents, licensing, and startups?

The conversation around why startups should patent now feels like a tennis match. Some argue that filing patents, waiting for the "patent pending" status, and trudging through the whole process consumes time and burns through money.

But others contend that patent filings are more of a long game, potentially offering startups benefits that far outweigh the legal costs. There's no one-size-fits-all answer, but one thing is clear: your startup's IP could be among your company's most valuable assets.

Your gold mine: The unseen

Your IP fuels innovation, giving you that all-important competitive edge. Picture this: you know you've created something exceptional, something unique. But then someone else swoops in, calling your invention their own or even copying it under the radar. It's too late to take it back, right? Well, if you had stepped up and filed a patent early on, your ideas could have been bulletproof.

Keep your rivals off your lawn.

Stressing over potential patent litigation? Think about this:

Patents aren't just for companies going on the offensive; stocking up on a robust patent portfolio can act as protective gear, too. Most startups usually shuffle away from the drama of a lawsuit when launching infringement claims against competitors. That's why coverage against patent infringement can provide a safe haven when your competitors take a swing at you.

Sheltering your creativity: Copyrights

And let's not forget copyrights. These are your creative work's personal bodyguards, protecting a diverse range from music, prints, poems, dance moves, and photographs to software classified as literary works. While copyrights are inherently valid from the moment of invention, registering them officially can add an extra line of defense to protect you from legal battles.

The race now belongs to the swift: First-Inventor-To-File (FITF)

Since its implementation in March 2013, FITF has altered the patent game. Now, it's more about who files the patent first rather than who comes up with the invention first. This shift in focus has made it critical for technology startups to start their patent process early to secure their ideas.

Time waits for no one:

Startups are expected to file a patent application within a year of public disclosure of an invention, be it through a sale or a publication. Fall behind on this, for example, and you might lose your shot at patenting your startup or big idea.

Jump in, even if it's early:

If you're still tinkering with your innovation, don't hold back on filing a provisional application. It's a more straightforward approach to kick-start the patent process. Consider filing patents as basic operational etiquette. Sure, you might not get investments just because you're well-groomed, but failing to do so will undoubtedly raise eyebrows.

Why should startups adopt a robust patent strategy?

Building a formidable arsenal of patents around one core technology can be a wall against competitors. This strong patent portfolio could help:

  • stop rivals from exploiting technology
  • force rivals to license it from you even if the core technology is already public.

Though ownership of your startup IP might seem nebulous, it's probably the most precious element of your startup.

At the end of the day, your intellectual property and data are pivotal to innovation. It helps carve out your competitive advantage. And, most importantly, you can defend it whenever necessary before you go public.

Read our “Patent Filing 101” guide to get the process started!


Why are patents essential for startups?

Patents provide the company or intellectual property owner the right to "exclude" others from developing, using, selling, offering for sale, or importing a product or service that includes the innovation.

Do I need to patent my startup?

Yes. Assume you have a patent that gives you a massive edge over your competitors. In that situation, it may be critical for your company's success. 

Why is patenting a new business idea a must?

You receive protection for your patent searches for a set amount of time, allowing you to keep opponents at bay. You may then put your innovation to work for yourself. You can also license your patent to others to use or sell. This might end up becoming a critical source of money and revenue for your company.

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Lindokuhle Mkhize, a skilled creative copywriter and content lead at Trademarkia, brings a wealth of experience in driving innovation and managing teams. With previous success in starting and growing the Innovation and Marketing department at her former creative agency, Lindokuhle boasts expertise in leadership and delivering compelling content. Based in South Africa, Lindokuhle's work focuses on key themes of creativity, effective communication, and strategic marketing.