Digital health startups are one the fastest growing segment of startups. They develop cutting-edge solutions that improve the efficiency of patient care and hospital operations. Due to the increasing competition in this area and the need for startups venture capital funding, these digital healthcompanies will need to protect their innovations by acquiring intellectual property.
There are many obstacles to obtaining this protection. For the business sideStartupsYou have limited resources, and you are busy with the daily essential tasks of starting a new company. Trademark renewal. Recent federal court decisions and U.S. Patent and Trademark Office(USPTO), policies have made it more difficult for some software-related technologies to be protected. Digital-health firms may face difficulties in obtaining meaningful protection for innovations due to these obstacles.
These hurdles aside, digital-health businesses can still implement strategies to create an effective intellectual property portfolio for their innovations.
Conduct an inventor audit
Startups often have budget limitations and new products and technologies which make it prohibitive to seek protection for each invention. However, startups can use an invention audit to identify any new innovations currently in use. The company can then score the innovations based on:
(1) Whether the innovation creates a competitive advantage
(2) How distinct is this innovation from the existing practices.
(3) The ease and convenience of reverse engineering the innovation
(4) The ability of detecting whether other people are copying the innovation.
(5) The novelty’s value to business partners, competitors, or potential licensees.
These scores enable companies to derive a cumulative scoring system for each innovation. This allows them to compare the innovations’ value and pursue patent protection if they have the highest cumulative score. Startups may choose to trade secret or protect innovations that score lower.
Remember to take care of your design
In addition to technical innovations, many digital-health businesses make substantial investments in the design of their products. This includes user interfaces as well as fonts, icons and fonts. These companies may want to use design patents to protect their products’ appearance.
Figures below show two designs patents that protect Apple Watches. These design patents protect product aesthetics, which include both the physical and user interface design.
Companies can ensure that the user experience is protected by protecting both the design as well as the underlying technology. A design patent can be obtained for a fraction of the price of a utility patent.
Focus on the underlying technology and not the content of patent applications when filing.
Many patent applications that are filed today are focused on the content. This can lead to potential problems. They tend to focus on data used (e.g. data related to healthcare) and not the technology processing the data.
It may be more difficult to obtain an issued patent if you concentrate on content. The USPTO decides the technology area that an application belongs to when it’s filed. The probability of obtaining patents can be significantly affected by the classification, as illustrated in the chart below. The chances of obtaining a Patent for applications classified as E-Commerce plummet from between 60-75% and below 10%.
It is worth noting that some digital health applications are classified by the USPTO as being part of its ecommerce group. To avoid this problem, the claims and specification should concentrate on the underlying technology and not the product content. This can increase the chance that the patent application is assigned to a more patentable technology.
An Omnibus patent application is recommended for disruptive products with multiple innovations.
Another way to keep patent rights protected is to file an “omnibus Patent Application”–a single utility-patent application that discloses many innovations in a product. For an example, click here. Omnibus applications may claim one disclosed invention; continuation applications can claim the other.
Omnibus patents allow digital-health businesses more flexibility than standard “single innovations” applications. This allows them to pursue claims covering multiple functionalities and possibly even a competitor’s product in the rapidly evolving digital-health marketplace.
These are just a handful of possible strategies. These and many other strategies can be tailored for success in growing businesses and protecting R&D investments of digital health startups.