All posts by Mark Jolink

4 Tips To Obtain A Patent For Your Agrifood Startup At Minimum Cost

Patent-Application

You may have developed a new harvesting technology, or an improved production method. Or maybe a synergistic combination of ingredients, or a better packaging. Filing a patent application appears the way to go, in order to add value to your company and to attract investors. But some startups first need the investors to be able to invest in a patent application. Here are four valuable tips on how to set the patent application in motion with a limited budget.

Which came first? The chicken or the egg? Or in patent terms: the patent application or the investors? A patent application costs money and that is what many startups don’t have. An investor can help them with this, but investors prefer to get involved once a patent application has been filed, as is underlined by one of StartLife’s own foodtech startups.

“We are noticing the benefits of filing a patent especially when we talk to investors. When you say you are working on technology and development, the first question they often ask is: have you got a patent? When I tell them that we have filed a patent application, you notice that this helps, that you come across as more reliable and are taken more seriously.”

Birgit Dekkers, Co-founder of Rival Foods

In the paragraphs below, I will elaborate on the following four tips that will help you to set your patent application in motion at minimum expense.

  1. Do your own novelty search
  2. Make a good description of the invention
  3. Submit a provisional patent application
  4. Submit an international PCT application

TIP 1: Do your own novelty search

You can start by doing a novelty search yourself. Google and patent databases contain a wealth of information and publications. Find out what the differences are between your innovation and what already exists. Make an accurate comparison of this. Then discuss the results with your patent attorney.


TIP 2: Make a good description of the invention

You can make a detailed description of the invention yourself. Mention the advantages of the invention and the possible variations on it. Can the innovation be used more widely? What else can you do with it? What would happen if it were to be made of a different type of material? Where can you create variation points? This description is a useful starting point for me to start drafting the patent application.


TIP 3: Submit a provisional patent application

For startups with a limited budget it can be a financial and strategic advantage to start with a provisional patent application. By doing so you postpone the official filing and search costs. One disadvantage is that you miss the feedback from the searcher, but with a provisional patent application you do have a year to look for investors.


TIP 4: Submit an international PCT application

The PCT route is an opportunity to obtain international protection for your invention. This will postpone the costs of parallel country procedures by another eighteen months. In other words: it gives you even more time to work on your invention and to find investors or (large) partners. With the PCT application all options remain open.

Combined with the advantages of the provisional patent application you will have 2.5 years to decide for which countries the patent should apply. After that time, you should be selective when it comes to the choice of countries for the patent granting procedures. Where are your competitors located, where is your market?

Above all, don’t forget to ask investors and partners for their opinion!


Disclaimer…

I wouldn’t be a good patent attorney if I didn’t point out a disclaimer. If you want to save money as a startup, always opt for a balance between quality and cost-effectiveness and together with your patent attorney make strategic choices about what you want to do yourself and what you want others to do.

The chance of optimum protection is of course greatest if your patent attorney is given the time to take an in-depth look at your invention. A patent attorney can also introduce changes to the application, if necessary, based on the searcher’s feedback, in order to get a positive opinion from the official body at an early stage, which is something investors are really keen on!

Note: Mark Jolink is a Dutch & European patent attorney at EP&C, one of StartLife’s program partners. Mark is in food & nutrition, bio-based product technology, biotechnology & biochemistry, healthcare & medicine, and medical equipment. If you would like some advice on the costs of your patent application, feel free to contact him. Mark would be pleased to help you.

 

p.s. Stay up to date with the latest news about and for agrifood startups, scale-ups and more via StartLife’s Linkedin or Twitter account or via the StartLife newsletter (8x a year).

4 Reasons For Talking To A Patent Attorney At An Early Stage

EP&C Patent Attorney Mark Jolink

This month EP&C, a patent attorney agency, extends their partnership agreement with StartLife. StartLife helps early stage technology startups to validate their business, find investors and achieve their growth ambitions. Patent protection is crucial at this early stage, so EP&C help the young entrepreneurs with this. In recent years, the company has assisted them with patent applications, Freedom To Operate studies and more. And they will continue to do so in the coming years.

Many entrepreneurs, both those starting out and more experienced ones, only realize when it is too late just how important it is to talk with a patent attorney at an early stage. There are several good reasons for doing so. Mark Jolink from EP&C explains.

Reason 1:
We can identify third party patent rights at an early stage

Many entrepreneurs are so busy developing their product, setting up their business and finding investors that they forget about their competitors’ patent rights. You may know who your competitors are, but do you know what their patent rights are? This is a question that investors regularly ask. So you must look into this. You can either do so yourself or have someone else do it for you. However, if you fail to do so, you run the risk of developing a product that infringes someone else’s intellectual property rights. This brings me to my next point.

Reason 2:
It is still fairly easy to tweak the design

The sooner you know about the patent rights of others, the easier it tends to be to make minor changes to a design and work around existing patents so that you can enter the market without infringing them. It is, of course, also possible to do this at a later stage but it is often much more expensive then. After all, it costs a lot more money to change an entire production line than to modify a concept.

Reason 3:
We can discuss R&D results at an early stage

Innovative entrepreneurs often overlook two things in the development process. First of all, they often fail to realize that they are making simple but valuable inventions. Secondly, they sometimes disclose information about new products before they have been patented. In which case, the invention will no longer meet the novelty requirement and they can no longer apply for a patent on it. By discussing the R&D results with a patent attorney at an early stage, you can avoid these pitfalls.

By looking at these things together, we can learn about the inventions that seem obvious to you, and you will not disclose any information you should be keeping to yourself. This will ultimately make your patent portfolio a lot stronger. It will also increase the value of your company and strengthen your position in the market.

Reason 4:
We increase the chance of investment

At StartLife, where finding investors is an important goal, we often encounter that a proposition is much more investor ready after a sound check on intellectual property is done. Thanks to their better understanding of the opportunities and threats related to their intellectual property rights, they come across more professionally and have a better grip on the situation. People are more likely to invest in an organisation that knows what it has already done, or wants to do, when it comes to patents.

Small investment

Talking to a patent attorney at an early stage means more traction on the initial steps of your business. Many entrepreneur only take this step once their technologies are at a more advanced stage. This may seem logical, but it can ultimately cost a lot more time and definitely money. Even a short meeting with a patent attorney can provide you with so much relevant information for your company that it is well worth the small investment.

Learn more about EP&C and how they can help your agrifood startup.

 

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