Are some markets better suited to benefit from patent protection than others? In this interview with Chris Haug, Chapter Director of StartUp Grind, Columbia, MD, we discuss a patent strategy from a market perspective.
Startup Grind is a community that educates, inspires, and connects entrepreneurs. Jason Tagler, founder of Pitch Creator, presented on successful pitching at the Startup Grind, Columbia, Maryland Chapter. As part of his presentation, Jason distinguished between four market scenarios, each scenario defined by size of investment required (small or large) and size of opportunity (small or large). With few barriers to entry, it is fair to say that you, and everyone around you, may attempt to enter the small investment/large opportunity (SI/LO) market. Logically, the SI/LO market winner is the first to market.
I talked with Chris about a first-to-market approach. In addition to his work with StartUp Grind, Chris is also the founder and CEO at 360º Strategies Solutions Group. In both roles, Chris coaches entrepreneurs. When entrepreneurs want to launch a universe of products, Chris coaches them to “Stop. Look at the minimum viable product that you want to put on the market.” A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) enters a market with only enough features to establish a market position. Feedback from MVP sales informs further product development. An MVP approach fits with a SI/LO market – it’s all about speed.
A patent strategy may support an MVP approach. Chris, who has experience filing patent applications, described the patent-MVP integration as follows: The objective is
“to develop a minimum viable product that meets demonstrated customer needs better than anybody else and allows you to establish a dominant market-segment position, as quickly as possible. Once you have a dominant market position, you then control what happens within that market. And as a result, everything you have done now becomes a far more valuable set of intellectual property protections.”
An MVP-based patent strategy may begin with filing a provisional patent application that describes novel MVP features. Filed subsequently (within one year), a non-provisional patent application may claim market-tested, novel MVP features. The strategy may further comprise filing, for example, continuation-in-part applications to claim additional, enhanced, novel product features. A patent owner can enforce these “far more valuable” patent rights as a mechanism to “control what happens within that market.” Accordingly, an MVP-based patent strategy may enable SI/LO market dominance.
Patents may protect your market-tested, novel MVP features, but, as Chris explained, nothing is stopping competitors from asking, “Now, how can I get around this patent?” In the 2001 book, The Art of Innovation, Tom Kelley explained how a client broke through “the formidable patent barrier.” A manufacturer controlled a product category with over 40 patents. Tom’s team researched product features and patent claims. The features were “clunky and required too many steps.” The team realized the features could be improved upon, and the patent claims did not extend to the identified improvements. The client successfully entered the market by exploiting the “holes” in the issued patent claims. With a focus on speed, an MVP-based provisional patent application may include “holes.” A MVP-based patent strategy may attempt to cover the “holes” with continuation-in-part patent applications claiming enhanced product features.
A SI/LO market approach requires quick action using minimal resources. You may customize your patent strategy to your MVP approach in the SI/LO market. As Chris said, “It’s like anything. There is a time and a place for patents.”
I want to thank Chris Haug for sharing his knowledge about MVPs and the patent process. To learn more about Startup Grind, Columbia, Maryland Chapter, please visit (https://www.startupgrind.com/columbia-md/). To learn more about 360º Strategies Solutions Group, please visit (https://www.360semg.com/). To learn more about Pitch Creater, please visit (http://www.pitchcreator.com/)
Hutchison Law, LLC has experience preparing and filing patent applications. To learn more about our patent practice, please contact us at 410-978-7287 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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