IP strategy: How should startups decide whether to file patents

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Bryant Lee, Ed Steakley & Saleh Kaihani Contributor Bryant Lee is the co-founder and managing partner of Cognition IP, a YC-backed IP law firm for startups. Ed Steakley was the Head of IP at Airware and Senior Patent Counsel at Apple. Saleh Kaihani is a partner at Cognition IP.

Deciding what to patent can be a confusing process but by creating a formal process it is something that every startup can manage.

Intellectual property (IP) is one of the most valuable assets of a startup and patents are often chief among IP in terms of value. Patents allow the startup to prevent competitors from using their technology, which is a powerful feature that can grant unique advantages in the marketplace.

From a business perspective, patents can help with driving investment and acquisitions, provide protection during partnerships and business deals, and help defend itself against patent lawsuits by others.

However, startups also often have a hard time determining when and what to patent. Innovative startups are inventing new things on a regular basis, and there is a danger of slipping into a haphazard approach of patenting whatever happens to be available rather than


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