Importance of patents and other intellectual property rights (Patents, Trademarks, Copyrights and Designs) for technology and hardware startups
Basics of Intellectual Property Rights for Hardware Startups
Considering the dynamically changing landscape of hardware products due to latest developments in technology and introduction of lean manufacturing methods, it has become feasible to launch a hardware startup that solves a real world problem.
However, while starting a business involving hardware as core product, adequate considerations must be given to issues related to Intellectual Property Rights (IPR).
IPR Protection for Hardware Startups - Patents, Trademarks, Copyrights and Designs from Rahul Dev, Advocate, Patent Attorney, Trademark Lawyer, India
Hardware vs. Software
While discussing intellectual property (IP) protection with regards to latest technological developments, most of attention is attributed towards software, especially software patent protection, subject matter eligibility with reference to latest court decisions, and copyright protection for software code. Whereas in case of hardware related products, IP protection is entirely different.
During the course of product development, hardware is different from software as software product development broadly includes the steps of working on the concept, developing the prototype, and evaluating whether the product is sellable or not. In contrast, hardware product development requires an additional step of evaluating whether it is feasible to manufacture the hardware product.
Prototyping and Crowdfunding
Subsequently, to evaluate if it is possible to manufacture the hardware, prototyping of the product is extremely crucial. However, it is a cost intensive process and hence, crowdfunding is a favourable option. Few famous crowdfunding websites include the likes of Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Kickstarter is a quick and easy way to turn ideas into reality, however, when it comes to IPR, crowdfunding sites are like a can of worms.
Exclusivity of Idea
One of the major issues of raising funds via sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo is to ensure exclusivity of the idea. In case product is not exclusive, anyone is free to execute without obtaining any permissions from the original owner. Therefore, establishing ownership of product is must before initiating the crowdfunding process.
IPR protection for hardware is not limited to patents, and design rights act as an important ownership tool to protect the product. It is very common for competitors to copy the aesthetic looks of a product as consumers relate to products majorly based on the looks. For example, Apple vs. Samsung lawsuit in US was based on infringement of design patents, in addition to utility patents.