1. Does your startup offering (whether a product or a service) solve a problem or address a need?
Dont let it be something you have to rationalise with proposed market trends when you explain it as" you may have a solution but don(TM)t justify its veracity with puff!
2. Can you describe your offering?
Drilling into the detail required for a patent application is useful for developing the detail of your offering for the market.
3. How will your offering come together?
How will it come together? What are the components or bits that need to work together to deliver the benefit that you have described? In patent terms, this is referred to as the embodiments of an invention.
What is your target market?
Can you describe your offering so you can change direction with agility? Markets change, in some fields very quickly. Thinking through the embodiments and arrangements of your invention early on also enables you to manage quick changes in direction as the need arises.
4. Can the market understand your offering?
From a usability stand point, your patent needs to describe your offering sufficiently so that the target audience can get your offering quickly and easily from your description.
5. How different and inventive is your offering from the competition?
Have you covered off your offering in the simplest possible way so your competition cannot further simplify it and make it sticky to the market?
What i(TM)s the competitive landscape?
6. Why have others failed?
Identifying the oeprior art that exists in the same technical field as your invention is a part of the process when trying to apply for a patent. Understanding the relevant oeprior art (what else is out there that offers a similar advantage/feature, what advantages and disadvantages does the prior art have) helps your startup to identify the competitive advantage of its offering to the marketplace.
Whose toes are you treading on?
This also raises the important question of: do you have the freedom to operate in the market? This goes to infringement risk and is unfortunately often forgotten in the excitement of getting a new offering to market.
7. What are the obstacles that the competition has in place?
Are you treading on somebody else’s offering to the market (i.e. their kernel) & do you need to acknowledge this? Test this on paper with a patent as a means to flush out your SWOT before you launch your offering on the market.
The value proposition
From here you can build your "value proposition" – why people would want your startup’s offering.
8. Do you have a "value proposition"?
A common misconception among individuals who come to us with “the next big thing – I just need to patent it and sell it for millions” is a lack of detail. Having gone through the process of preparing a patent application (whether or not you take the step of applying for a patent), helps you to identify your offering’s value proposition.
Value = exit
If your offering has teeth, can you exit with cash in your pocket? A patent enables succession – you can get the cash and make the dash...to your next startup.
9. What is your exit plan?
A patent lives for 20 years and so it encourages you to see an end. Companies often forget the necessity to continuously innovate...and to reap the benefits from exiting one innovation and moving to the next.
Modelling your offering to the market via a patent is a means to create revenue and to test your offering before burning your, or your family + friends, cash.
Remember, you are the one taking the risk. Putting a patent into place can stop others from stepping on you. It is also a means to model the offering and its positioning in the market without first risking the house.
Test your startup proposition by stepping through the detail needed to put a patent into place. Consider investing in your key startup asset by putting patent protection into place before you launch.
Michael Bates / Josephine Inge