While lack of traditional capital is a widespread problem for minority entrepreneurs, sometimes their lack of knowledge about how to win over angel investors is just as bad. The National Minority Angel Network was formed with the intent to not only invest in companies, but to also provide entrepreneurs with practical advice that they can use to make an immediate impact on their companies; such as how to protect their innovative ideas.
Already the organization is making headway. The Entrepreneurial Growth and Wealth Creation Symposium, which will be held December 13, 2012, is the organizations first public endeavor to give entrepreneurs the resources they will need to make their companies fundable. Here, founder Timothy Reese expounds upon the five biggest mistakes that tech entrepreneurs make when it comes to protecting their intellectual property.
1. Not hiring a patent attorney. If a company’s technology is innovative, the company should hire a patent attorney to determine whether patent protection is available. Their legal counsel will help you determine if your technology is truly innovative and sufficiently different from past technology to earn patent protection.
2. Not policing and prosecuting patent thieves. If a company patents a technology and eventually stops selling the patented product, the company’s right to exclude others from using that technology still continues for the life of the patent. So these companies should continue to watch the market for potentially infringing products and, if appropriate, demand licensing revenue for the use of the technology.
3. Not fully appreciating the full financial value of its intellectual property. Often, people focused on technology and innovation see the issuance of a patent as the end goal. In other words, the patent serves simply as validation of the innovative nature of the technology. But patents can have value beyond the document itself, and even beyond the ability to keep competitors at bay. Companies owning patents can offer licenses to companies that are not yet using the technology, but might nonetheless benefit from it.
4. Not keeping the innovation under wraps. A company also has the option of forgoing a patent, but maintaining that innovation as a trade secret by limiting access of the technology to only those employees who have a need to know it. An attorney can help put in place other mechanisms to ensure that confidentiality.
5. Developing technology without ensuring that the technology does not violate someone else’s intellectual property rights. There is little that will threaten the survival of a start-up company more than a patent infringement lawsuit filed against it. Patent infringement lawsuits are very expensive, and if a company is found to infringe on someone’s patent, a court can stop the infringer from selling the infringing product. Companies should put in place a system that includes monitoring issued and pending patents to avoid developing technology that will infringe on a third party’s patent. That system can be internal, or it can be outsourced to a company or firm that specializes in providing what is typically referred to as “clearance opinions” for developing technology.
Check back here at BlackEnterprise.com next week for additional coverage of NMAN’s Entrepreneurial Growth and Wealth Creation Symposium to be held December 13, 2013 at The City University of New York. To register or for more information visit the NMAN website.