Well, not really, but he does get tired of hearing about them. Ever since sharing the stage with Guy Kawasaki last month at IgniteIT and hearing his thoughts on patents, it seems like every time I turn around I have a Jungian/Guy Kawasaki plate o’ shrimp patent moment. Just yesterday, I ran across this video of Guy. The video is ostensibly on blogging, but Guy cannot help but throw in a word or two about patents. Just as he did at IgniteIT, Guy emphasizes the importance of not emphasizing patents when discussing your business plan with potential investors.
Guy is not opposed to patents, or any other intellectual property protection for that matter. He just subscribes to my philosophy; a patent is merely a “safe.” The question is whether what you put inside is the Hope diamond or a lump of coal. If it is the Hope diamond, the product will evangelize itself. To borrow a phrase from Guy, “All you have to do is get out of the way.” If what you have is a lump of coal, building Fort Knox around it is not going to help sell it and, therefore, is of little interest to potential investors.
Patents are important, but they are not going to change a sow’s ear into a silk purse. The market either wants, or does not want, your product. Patents merely keep other people from competing with you. If your product is great, a patent is great, if your product is terrible, a patent is a waste of money. The tail does not wag the dog. Remember, anyone can get a patent on almost anything. Heck, I even have one myself.
Touting a patent to a potential investor is like saying you are incorporated. That is great, that is important, but what difference does it make? Tell me why your business plan is special. Tell me why the market will care. What in your business plan sets you apart? What special expertise does your team have? What is your experience in this industry? What customers are on board? What synergies, other than money, can this venture capital group bring to the table on your project?
Guy points out several valuable considerations in looking beyond patent protection. He also offers his patent lawyer buddies, Doug Sorocco Stephen Nipper and Matthew Buchanan the chance to counterpoint as well as offer some thoughts on other types of intellectual property protection like obtaining trademark registrations as a part of an overall branding strategy.
Guy’s posts are a must read for any aspiring inventor. Patents are important, investors want to know you are pursuing them. However, making them the focus of your business plan is a sure fire way to tune out seasoned investors.