It is surprisingly common with startups to not know how to incorporate patenting in their company’s business strategy. Our patent specialist Jorma Selin blogs about important aspects for you to consider.
Startup, remember to involve an IP expert already in the product development phase – Case Kelosound
For new business owners it may be difficult to evaluate how to protect the rights to their ideas. Even drafting and filing the applications may be difficult on your own, if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing. An IP expert can help startups to create an effective IP strategy, which is vital already during the product development process.
Kelosound – an idea of a wood product playing the sounds from nature
Kirsi Ihalainen, a sound artist, Master of Arts, and CEO of Kelosound Oy, had an idea as a student to create a product of naturally dried wood, traditionally called kelo in Finnish, that would play different sounds. She developed a product that combines kelo with a soundscape of nature. The relaxing sounds vibrating from the beautiful kelo invite you to hug and listen. The Kelosound product was designed to bring nature within the reach of people. The wood is used as a relaxing element, balancing the hectic modern lifestyle.
The sounds of nature and the animal sounds are authentic recordings made by Kirsi herself. They are played from the piece of wood and can be controlled with a mobile application. All sounds or soundscapes include stories, poems and photos inspired by the Finnish mythology. The Kelosound products support green values and sustainability, which are important issues to Kirsi. The kelo used for the products is leftover wood, so no trees are felled for the production.
When her product was still under development, it didn’t occur to Kirsi that the idea could be protected. But as friends started asking if she had patented her invention, she began to explore the options of applying for a patent.
– I heard arguments both for and against patenting. Strangely, at no point during my Master of Arts studies did we learn about intellectual property rights, so I tried to learn by myself. I decided to file patent and trademark applications in Finland to protect my idea.
In the process, Kirsi realized that she also needed professional advising.
An IP expert helps to protect your idea with the right protection strategy
Kirsi contacted Mikko Nissinen, a patent attorney at Papula-Nevinpat. As Kirsi was planning to expand her business abroad at some point, they decided to file an international patent application, called a PCT application.
Before joining Papula-Nevinpat, Mikko had worked as a patent examiner at the Finnish Patent and Registration Office (PRH), processing filed applications. During this time he had seen a vast variety of patent applications, some of them good and some not so good.
– Even if it’s theoretically possible for anybody to file for a patent on their own, in practice the patent may not be granted if the application doesn’t meet all the formal requirements. For example, the application may not pass the examination carried out at the PRH. If the applicant fails to correct the deficiencies pointed out by the examiner, the processing of the application may be stopped, or the application may be rejected. Also, you are not allowed to add content or make changes to the application in any way you like during the process, because there are certain rules to be followed. It’s important to take all these aspects into consideration before filing the application. If you don’t get the patent, anyone is free to use the same idea or invention, Mikko explains.
– There’s an art to writing a good patent application. It’s very important that the scope of protection conferred by the patent is defined properly in the application. An IP expert can make sure that all the relevant aspects of the invention will be protected, and also that it will not be possible for someone else to circumvent the patent. Another point to consider is to ensure sufficient options for later specifying the invention defined in the patent claims, in case the patent is not granted based on the originally filed claims.
Any funding available for IP services?
There are different ways to get funding for IP expert services. For example, Business Finland offers an innovation voucher of 5,000 euros (+VAT) available for SMEs to access external expert services. Other options may include:
Currently, local funding services are also being offered by some organizations, for example BusinessOulu.
– You may be tempted to write the application yourself in the hope of saving money. While it may seem expensive at first to hire an IP expert, in the end it will save both time and money, because the scope of protection of the patent will be accurately defined to begin with. In the worst case, the chances of protecting the idea with a patent may be lost altogether due to an improperly drafted application. It’s our standard practice to always tell the client that funding is available if they are not yet aware of that, says Mikko.
A good IP strategy reflects your business strategy
As a result of the advice Kirsi got from Papula-Nevinpat, an international patent application is now pending for the Kelosound product. International patent applications are filed and processed according to a centralized procedure, and after the international phase is completed the applicants can apply for the patent in countries that are relevant to their business. Filing an international application gave Kelosound Oy more time to consider where the products could be marketed in future, and in which countries the national applications should later be filed.
– I got good advice from Papula-Nevinpat, which gave me more time for the whole process. Now I’m able to take my time and focus on product development, and on planning the future of my business. As I’m creating new products, I now have better abilities to consider their novelty value and patenting potential before launching the products, says Kirsi.
IP protection tips for startups
The process of protecting the rights to your IP should start already during product development. But for new business owners it may be difficult to navigate through all the options of how to protect your idea. That’s why it’s worthwhile to consult an IP professional early on.
– My advice for new business owners is to go see an IP professional as soon as possible, so that you’ll get some fact-based information on IP rights before you start patenting or launching your product. Thanks to Mikko, I now know what I’m required to do in each stage of the process, how long it will take to get the patent granted, and what’s generally possible and what’s not. Without this awareness you may end up making mistakes that could easily be avoided, says Kirsi.
– I suggest you start by protecting the name of your brand and your product with a trademark. In my case this was critical. For example, I was entitled to claim the right to a Facebook page that included the word Kelosound because I was the owner of that name, she explains.
Do you know the novelty value of your invention? Are there identical products on the market? These are some of the questions an IP expert will go through with you in order to create an effective strategy to protect your rights.
Contact one of our IP experts for an overview of your current IP situation!
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