Which comes first, the patent or MVP?
Authors: Janhavi Pawar (COO) and Stuart Shapiro (CEO)
It’s a chicken and egg issue. Our team at pwrPARK have gone over this conundrum time and time again over the last year. pwrPARK started as a venture project within IDC and has since built a market-ready product.
Over the last year, we debated the pros and cons to apply for a patent. When to do it? Do we allocate the little funds we have to a patent? Why is the patent important? This is a summary of our findings having spoken to patent lawyers in Israel, South Africa and India.
The MVP and pilot program:
The MVP (Minimal Viable Product) validates your business model and the product need. It's easy to fall into the trap that your product is needed and will, therefore, generate sales. But this is an assumption until proven with solid market research and genuine customer feedback. We know that we need to validate our product through a pilot program, MVPS, but are we risking our patent by doing so?
The patent ensures your intellectual property is safe. Why is this important? As we have learnt, it's nearly impossible to raise substantial funding without a patent. Investors are not willing to put their money into a company without a sense of security, without there being a barrier to entry for competitors; the patent offers this security.
Whatever form of MVP you use to test the product requires the product to be seen by the public domain. Exposing your product can result in a denial of your patent application process. There's a very thin line between what you can put out in the public domain while applying for your patent.
Patent search and FTO:
First you need to action a patent search, you can do the initial search yourself using https://patents.google.com. After you have found patents that resemble your idea and novelty, you need to hire professionals to conduct an FTO, Freedom to operate is a search. The patents are analyzed to see where they are lodged and where you can't operate. This means manufacturing and sales limitations.
What we have learnt:
- You don't need an MVP or prototype to file for a patent.
- You need to run a pilot program with an MVP to test your product before investing capital into the patent.
- It's essential to keep your online presence and your product's details to a minimum until you have lodged a
- patent application. Factor this when running a pilot or exposing an MVP.
Patents in Israel will cost $4000 - $8000; this includes drafting the patent and submitting the patent.
- You can have a patent drawn up in another country, India in our case, and then filed in Israel to reduce costs.
- Israel does not have traditional provisional patents like the rest of the world, but that doesn't mean your patent needs to be final. Your product may change somewhat, and when it does, you can amend the initial patent.
PwrPARK has just won the First Prize at the TIE University Pitchfest Competition! The winners of the Israeli competition will be participating in the international competition!