Protecting Your Intellectual Property as a Start-up

Bringing a product to the market is known to be a long journey for life sciences start-ups. It all starts with protecting the underlying ideas and thoughts: the intellectual property (IP). But when is the right time to file a patent application, and at what stage of the process should you think about strategic partnerships with other companies? Here is an overview of key aspects to consider when it comes to protecting your IP as a biotech company. 

Potential risks and issues with patents

In the competitive biotech industry, companies often feel pressured to file patent applications as early as possible. However, insufficient planning can turn out to be very expensive for  when the initial patent claim is not valuable enough to cover significant aspects of your product or method.

Other issues with IP commonly occur when a company finds out about existing competitor patents covering overlapping areas only after the patent claim has been filed, often leading to expensive litigations. Potential risks also lie in the scope of protection required: For example, do you want to protect a platform technology as a whole or would you rather focus on a specific compound such as a molecule? Your product or method data will change as your business evolves. If you file a claim that is too specific, you may not be able to build on the patent after the original product has been improved at a later stage. Filing additional, more valuable patent applications for a product costs money and time. On the other hand, if the claim is very broad, it may be too vague which means no protection at all.

Align your company and IP strategies early on

Given the potential risks and issues, it is crucial to develop an effective IP strategy in line with your company’s life cycle and business plan as early as possible. Therefore, once a commercially promising idea has been devised, consult with a legal or IP expert to identify potential issues and guide you through the process schedule. Despite limited resources at this stage, you can already set up a plan for the timing and scope of your patent application.

It is better to focus early on a few strong patents, based on a well-thought-out strategy, than to file many costly applications. This includes knowing your competition. With a limited budget,  the countries where you could encounter strong competitors.

A strong strategy from the beginning pays off in later phases: As a mid-staged company, it can be much easier and more economical to build on your initial strong patents and expand or split them to protect improvements added to your product or method, rather than filing separate applications.

The right time to partner

Once your patent portfolio is established and you have already made progress in developing your products, it is generally a good time to start thinking about potential collaborations. Make strategic use of your IP to find the right partners. Partnerships at this stage can help you spread or reduce the costs of conducting clinical trials as well as for entering the global market with your product.

However, when early-stage biotech companies negotiate a licensing deal involving their IP, they should consider starting with an option agreement for collaboration. A 6 or 12-month option provides more flexibility to test a product on the market. At the same time, you retain exclusive access to your IP, reinforcing your position in negotiations.

Identify competitors and licensing deals with Biotechgate

As a life sciences business development database, Biotechgate assists you with important aspects of building effective protection for your IP: For example, utilize the database to identify competitors developing in similar therapy areas or search for existing licensing agreements . In addition, participate in Biotechgate Digital Partnering to meet potential partners.