Don’t be bitten! The shark tank and IP

Don’t be bitten! The shark tank and IP

Don’t be bitten! The shark tank and IP

If you’re looking for investment in an idea or business, securing ownership of your intellectual property (IP) rights can make or break the project.  This has never been more evident than in recent episodes of the TV series: The Shark Tank (Network Ten).

Entrepreneurs and inventors often need assistance to get things off the ground, but an investor may need some evidence that you value your ideas, before they do.  

The Shark Tank

The Shark Tank is a reality television show that sees aspiring entrepreneur-contestants pitch business ideas to a panel of “shark” investors.

In a number of pitches, several “sharks” have made a point of asking about IP protection, indicating that a strong, or weak, IP position can play a significant role in the decision to invest.

Patents – owning the rights

A key concern for any investor is whether competitors can be prevented from entering the market.  This makes owning the legal rights to an invention critical to its commercial potential.  

An innovation patent might be the best option to start out, providing quick protection while other business considerations are put in place. However, applying for a standard patent might be the best strategy depending on your circumstances.  Professional advice from a patent attorney can help you with this decision.

Either way, owning a patent can play a significant part in convincing potential investors to back your project. From the investor’s perspective having a patent will serve to protect the market from competition and reduce the risk involved in the investment.

Business name Vs trade mark protection

Another key issue has centred around trade marks. In one instance, a contestant thought that a registered business name would provide trade mark protection.

Unfortunately, this is an all too common misconception. Registered business names and domain names do not provide any trade mark protection, leaving a brand open to copycats.  

Businesses rely on their mark or brand to distinguish themselves from competitors and build a trusted reputation with customers and clients. A registered trade mark should not be overlooked as it provides you with an exclusive right to use the mark for your goods and services.

Don’t forget that it is also key that you are not infringing the rights of another trade mark owner!  Imagine you’ve put everything into building up the business for years, and suddenly you receive a nasty legal letter alleging infringement, effectively forcing you to stop trading under that logo or mark.  It is not uncommon.

Before spending money on any marketing, brochures, or packaging, at the very least you should have a trade mark clearance search done by a professional.  

Take away points for entrepreneurs and inventors

  • Investors will scrutinise the presence or absence of any IP when deciding to invest in a business.
  • It is important to secure your IP protection prior to disclosing your ideas! If you’re unsure about it, get in touch with your local DCC office – your initial consultation is always free.
  • A valuable tool to use as a starting point is the IP checklist – it’s a quick, easy to use guide to remind business owners of the steps needed to identify and secure various IP rights.
  • Before dealing with the Sharks, avoid being bitten by ignoring your intellectual property. With proactive steps, a business can significantly increase its potential value for an investor.

Davies Collison Cave can help with all your IP needs, in a friendly, no jargon way.  We regularly provide expert advice to first time entrepreneurs and inventors, as well as some of the largest corporations in the world.