Game-changing ideas from sole inventors and startups in tech are often shelved because the costs of implementing them are too high. Sometimes, this is simply the reality of the market – some hurdles are too high to overcome. But too often, ideas are shelved prematurely because startups do not realise there is another path to monetising their product: through intellectual property (IP).
Some sectors are more challenging than others for innovators trying to realise their ideas. In heavy industry, for example, a small startup may have invented a brilliant, even revolutionary, piece of technology but the barriers to entry are high because that technology will make up just a tiny part in a massive infrastructure. If an inventor has created a component for a power plant or the electric grid, which the startup naturally doesn’t own, securing deployment for the technology can be near impossible. Companies with these types of “component” inventions, therefore need to find another way to monetise them – which is where IP comes in.
Many companies – both large and small – see IP solely as a costly way to protect their inventions. When we see patents, trade marks or copyright in the news, it is mostly discourse around one company suing another for infringement. This creates a distorted view of the purpose and value of IP, which can be in fact a valuable tool for startups and lone inventors who want to monetise their inventions but cannot bring them to market themselves.
Without IP, a startup or inventor simply has an idea. Ideas without protection can be easily replicated and – as far as any potential investors or buyers know – may already exist in the market. However, a patent transforms this idea into a tangible asset, providing evidence to potential buyers that it is novel – i.e. no one else in the market is doing the same thing – and inventive. Critically, it gives the startup a tangible asset that it can sell.