Intellectual Property: What Is It and Why Does It Matter

IMG_8527On Thursday, Accelerate offered a walk through on intellectual property with a presentation from WIT Alum, Carl P. Evans III. Evans graduated in 2001 with a degree in Electromechanical Engineering and went from a career in robotics to a career in law. He most recently co-founded Predictive Inc. in April and the company launched the beta version of their software as a service for hedge fund managers three weeks ago. His presentation was both informative and engaging as the audience easily related to the real world examples that were brought up.

Evans started his presentation by breaking down the four categories of intellectual property. Coke was used as an example throughout the presentation given that the product is covered by all four forms of IP: copyrights, trademarks, patents, and trade secrets. Carl dove deep into what each type of IP entails and what processes are required to protect a person’s idea.

One area where Evans has seen a lot of issues, is with open source software. He cautioned the audience to beware of the licenses in the software they might be using. He has seen many cases go to court because due diligence wasn’t done.

When it came to patents, Evans simply said “a patent does not give you the right to do anything.” What it does, is allow you to exclude people from making, using or selling your invention. He used an example of two stools. The person who created a three-legged stool does not have the right to stop someone from making a four-legged stool. Unless that person drafted a patent that was more broad but Evans said he regularly sees inventors create very narrow patents that don’t cover them from direct competitors.

Given that “Shark Tank” is such a popular show for entrepreneurs, Evans wanted to make sure one thing was clear: there is no such thing as a provisional patent. The proper term is a “pending provisional patent application.” He explained that what this does is hold your place in line with the United States Patent and Trademark Office and gives you one year to file your non-provisional patent.

The key takeaway for the audience was, as Evans put it, “IP is important at various stages of your business life cycle.” He suggested materials and books that can help young startups begin the patent process to help cut down on lawyer fees which can get very expensive. But, at the end of the day, filing a patent can cost between $10,000-$15,000 so the pending provisional patent application can come in handy to help buy inventors some time to grow their idea, gain capital and solidify their business.

Evans is a proud Wentworth alum and Accelerate was honored to have him in the space. Before he wrapped up, he made sure to praise both Accelerate and the students in the audience for their ability to make the things they dream up.

“You have the ability to create the ideas and actually do it. It’s huge, it’s more important than you think. Now is the time to take risks and have fun with it. It’s very exciting. There’s a lot of money out there, venture capitals, angel investors, and you guys are well positioned to bring in that capital.”

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