Lean patent strategies: doing more with less

In previous articles, we have discussed how in the fast-paced world of start-ups, intellectual property (IP) is a crucial factor for success. Patents, in particular, are often considered the Holy Grail for protecting innovative inventions and gaining a competitive advantage.

However, the reality for start-ups is often more complex, as registering and maintaining patents can require large sums of money, creating a significant hurdle for start-ups with limited resources. Moreover, not all patents translate into real strategic value and only a small percentage achieve significant market impact. The patenting process is often intricate and requires specific legal skills that are not always readily available within a start-up.

In addition to this, concrete information on the actual return on investment (ROI) of patents is often scarce, making it difficult to assess their real value.

It therefore becomes crucial for start-ups to distinguish between ‘strategic’ and less significant patents. Patents with high strategic value feed into the company’s strategy, enabling it to implement key strategies and position itself distinctively in the market. In addition, they generate tangible returns, translating into significant revenue increases or preventing competitors from entering the market. They also provide a solid competitive advantage, distinguishing the company from competitors and protecting the innovations that make it unique.

To overcome challenges and optimise resources, start-ups can adopt a ‘lean’ approach to patenting, based on principles of efficiency and foresight.

This approach involves the targeted protection of inventions with the highest strategic and commercial potential, avoiding dispersing resources on less promising ideas. In addition, a step-by-step approach allows – where national law permits – to start with provisional patent applications to obtain initial cost-effective protection, postponing final registration to a later date.

Continuous evaluation and review of the patent strategy in light of market feedback, business developments and the latest industry trends is another key component of the lean approach. In fact, the technology landscape is constantly evolving, with new inventions and patents emerging frequently, and, therefore, continuous evaluation allows one to stay abreast of the latest industry trends and identify new patenting opportunities. Consider a start-up operating in the field of biotechnology: as medical research advances and new therapies are developed, it needs to constantly monitor the latest innovations to be aware of what can and cannot be patented in order to protect its competitive advantage.

Finally, external collaboration with qualified IP experts allows the patenting process to be optimised by utilising their specific knowledge and expertise.

Adopting a lean approach to patenting offers start-ups a number of concrete benefits, including cost reduction, increased agility and value maximisation. By focusing on patents with the highest potential return on investment, start-ups can optimise their limited resources. A flexible approach allows them to adapt their patent strategy to changing market needs and new opportunities. By protecting the inventions most critical to business success, start-ups can increase their value and attract interested investors. Innovative start-ups wishing to exploit the full potential of intellectual property should not let challenges deter them. By adopting a lean patent strategy based on an accurate assessment of strategic value, a focused and flexible approach and efficient use of resources, start-ups can successfully navigate the sea of IP, gain a lasting competitive advantage and maximise value for their stakeholders.