Do Indian startups really need Intellectual Property Rights?

Do Indian startups really need Intellectual Property Rights?

It was a quaint Tuesday morning. I was sipping my first Coffee and clearing my browser’s search history. The laptop beeps. A media invite! Aaaah, awesome lunch awaits. I’m all set to kick down the gate of our building, but wait, what the…

U.S Chamber of Commerce? Global Intellectual Property Center? Innovation and Intellectual Property Rights? This ain’t making sense.

Why do you need IP! I’m fine with ‘IP’ till its Internet Protocol. Intellectual Property? That’s trouble. We don't need more paperwork!
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Ever watched Shark Tank? They crib so bad for an IP. ‘Big Boss’ and ‘Roadies’ have convinced me that reality shows show anything but the reality. My Journalist DNA creaks.

I kit up. Notebook. Check. Recorder. Check. Water Bottle. Check. The self-righteousness falls into place.

Do Indian startups really need Intellectual Property Rights?

I step into the hotel lobby to soaring background music, and meet Mr. Patrick Kilbride, Executive Director, International IP at Global Intellectual Property Center to understand what the hullabaloo about this IP thing really is about.

I don't care what you say! Tell 'em Donald!
Do Indian startups really need Intellectual Property Rights?

You heard him. I warned you!

I slip into the shoes of a young Indian startup, and start to hurl the most hostile of questions at Patrick. Don’t worry Young India, as a journalist, I’ll do my job!

Why should I care for an IP?
If you’re bringing something to the market that we haven’t seen before, you should register your intellectual property.

You can then take that to potential investors, financiers or even crowd-sourcing. It can help you take your first steps into developing your idea into a business.

My idea’s my idea. Nobody does it better than me any way.
People can steal your idea/work, and make money from that. You don’t have the opportunity to monetize then. There are fewer chances of you being able to do the next big thing you’re planning.

It’s like leaving your Ferrari unlocked with the keys inside.

It’s a free world. People can have the same ideas as I do!
True, However, you might say ‘I have a great idea, I’ll try to follow it up’, but with an IP can reach a much broader audience by leveraging all the opportunities. Think of it as a micro-fund.

What Opportunities? How does IP help me get foreign investment?
You shouldn’t start with thinking about foreign investment.

Unless you got your basic IP right it becomes difficult to sell the idea to anyone.

You know Shark Tank?

*Aside* Told you he was trying to sell that idea in India?

It’s too costly for me.
The Indian government has realized an opportunity here. They’ll help patentees with subsidies.

The Startup India programme itself is to identify people with ideas who may not have all the resources to register an IP and help them do that with services and consultation.

In the US if you have an IP you can probably raise enough money to reimburse the registration. In India it’s a bit more difficult.

How can I update my IP as my B-Plan changes?
Ideally you don’t hold onto an IP like that. You can share it with the world. You get money in return for a period of exclusivity.

You can monetize your IP even if your business progresses in a different direction.

How much money could I possibly make by selling my IP rights?
The sky’s the limit! Ask Larry Ellison, Steve Jobs or Bill Gates.

Not everyone’s going to get rich from every idea. You truly have to revolutionize something to make that kind of money.

In case my company gets acquired, what do I do? Just hand over the IP to my Boss?
If you’re incorporated then IP is an asset of the parent company.

If it’s registered to you as an individual, it’s a different situation.

Wow. Can I get more money from my IP?
If you can convince the buyer of the value of the IP, then yes. It’s got to be solid. If it’s questionable, and the rules might change, then we have a problem.

How do I ensure the right value for my IP?
IP is the forward edge of technology.

When Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook nobody knew its value. When it launched an IPO no one was sure what the value of the initial stock should be. You’ve to look at similar offerings and what it can potentially do for people and business.

Ultimately anything’s worth as much as anybody’s willing to pay for it.

Can I get my IP back if I’ve sold it?
If the period of exclusivity isn’t over you’ve to come to an agreement.

If you’re the innovator, you know what the next big thing will be, and can create a new IP. That’s how it works.

If I and my Co-founder fall apart, what do I do? I tear the IP Certificate and give a half to him?
There’s no difference between any other asset within the business and an IP.

It’s just that it’s an asset that’s tradable, but not divisible.

I got a new co-founder. Can I get his name on my IP?
As a contractual matter anything’s possible.

Wow, that’s dangerous. Should I trade around with IPs too much?
If it becomes the foundation for your business model, you should do everything legally to reserve your rights. That way you’ll have the courage to move forward if anything goes wrong.

I think some guy in Singapore/Thailand’s trying to copy my idea. How can I sue that bastard?

You’ve got to rely on their domestic laws, and the international agreements India has with that country.

This is why we’re encouraging governments to have a strong IP model. There are still many parts of the world where you can do pretty much nothing about it.

…if it’s a guy in Hyderabad/Bangalore?
The penalties for infringement are currently not strong enough to be a deterrent. It’s more likely that you’re going to be ripped off. You’ve to take that into account. It can have a depressing effect on creativity.

Is there a one-stop solution to find who’s infringing on my rights?

You can search trade-mark registrations to ensure you’re not in infringing on someone else’s.

A lot of work is being done with Internet Service Providers. They’ll help take down any infringing material. It’s not easy though.

Hmmmm….looks like I was...these guys are trying to help…

No! I’m a Journalist! Let’s just pretend I’m never wrong.

Back To Work!