- The notion of intellectual property is generally dreadful and totally overrated. When you talk about IP, you often think about something that protects your product. Certain products need IP protection and there's really three types of IP protection. Type number one is copyright. Type number two is a patent and type number three is trade secret. At the very beginning of your company, the idea of what you can do with those different types of IP protections is something that can often be a big distraction to what you're doing.
Most products are copyright and it's relatively easy to copyright a product. So let's put copyright aside for this time being. Patent, you hear over and over again as an important thing, especially from investors to have patents on your products. The challenge with patents is it takes a bunch of years to get 'em. So as you're starting your company and starting to build your first product, you might have things that are patentable, but the cost and time that it's going to take you to get your patent is sometime in the future.
If you truly believe that your product is something that's novel and non-obvious, in that context, you could apply for and get a patent. However, the dynamics around patents are such that as an already staged company, it's often very hard to do much work around that. So you can't get a patent before you're actually launching your product typically. Check with your lawyer in terms of the best way to actually create patent protection before you launch your product because there are some specific things to do, but don't get hung up on the notion that the valuable thing that you're creating is the patent.
In a lot of ways, the patent is merely a defensive mechanism against other people if they come out with something similar to you. The last, which is trade secret, which is how you actually create your product, and the trade secret in a lot of cases for startups is where the real opportunity lies in terms of intellectual property protection. The way that you build the product, the material that goes into it, the software that goes into it, the types of things that you have to do to make it work the way it does is really the essence of where intellectual property protection comes at the early stages.
So it's not that you should ignore IP protection, but that you should recognize that it's a small component of what you're trying to do in the context of your product, that often is very over emphasized by people who say, oh, well, you know, you can't tell the world about anything you're doing until you have that IP protection. Be careful of that. Be careful of overplaying the dynamics of what that IP protections going to be. Last comment. It depends a lot on the product. If your product is a highly technical, new type of machine that has a huge amount of invention in it that's very complex, patents are going to be really meaningful.
If it's a new type of breakfast cereal, probably not so much. It doesn't mean that the new type of breakfast cereal couldn't be a hugely successful business. But it does mean that, for example, a patent is probably not going to be the thing that causes your new type of breakfast cereal to be super successful. So make sure you understand IP protection and the context of the type of opportunity you're going after.
- Define “shiny object syndrome.”
- Identify your customer’s pain.
- Determine the scalability of a product.
- Recall the best time to initiate customer acquisition.
- Review the differences between a passionate employee and an obsessed employee.
- Recognize the benefits of domain experience when building a founding team.