29 June 2006

The Business Development Clinic

Yesterday I spent the day with a Patent Attorney. We were running a clinic for inventors. It wasn't exactly like Dragon's Den - there was no TV camera in the room. It was fun. We saw four very different ideas during the day and all of them had some commercial merit.

One idea was particularly strong. Two young mothers had experienced a problem with some existing products and had attempted to design an alternative. Neatly, they didn't try to create a gold-plated mousetrap - but it was a major improvement to the existing product, increasing the product's value for the buyer. They were asking good questions, too - I wish them every success.

The other ideas were in varying stages of readiness but all them had a passion that they wanted to take forward - they all believed that their product would be attractive to consumers. However, we all know that commercial success doesn't rely on a clever idea - it is often about your ability to get a package together which is fit for purpose and getting it out into the market place before anyone thinks of a similar solution.

The day was useful for me too, I learned a lot about the strengths and weaknesses of registered designs and patents. It also gave me an opportunity to set out my own position that legal rights don't have a commercial value unless you are prepared to prosecute them. In the IP sector that prosecution of rights is known as 'stick licensing'. If you are prepared to go to court then you impress on your existing licensees that you are willing to stand up for the value of your IP. You also encourage the organisation trying to evade the licence that becoming a licensee might be simpler and cheaper than going to court.

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