[S1,E21 Expert] Here is what you really need to know about patents – Jeff Schox, patent attorney, builds patent portfolios for YC and AngelPad startups

A brand new startup can’t have everything. First they got to build the idea, develop a team… yadda, yadda, yadda. So, when can they start filing for patents and etch their name in their intellectual property forever? Because, god-forbid, someone else can or has already claimed that idea first!

Jeff Schox, patent attorney and founder of Schox Patent Group, thoroughly explains the process of filing for patents. Jeff works with top startup accelerators such as YC and AngelPad. In the interview he reminds start-ups not to rush when thinking about patents. He also denies the common thinking that the purpose of patents is to sue the competitors. Why?

When is the best time to file patents? Why do we really need patents?
How much does it cost to file for a patent?
What areas are not really patentable nowadays?
How to talk about patent strategies with investors?
How to talk to investors about solutions that aren’t really patentable?
How to protect my own inventions while working at another company?

Watch the interview to find out!

Ps. Patent attorneys charge at least $250 per hour to do the first meeting. At Valley Talks, you’re getting it for free. You’re welcome!

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Check out the highlights from the interview:

  • Jeff lets us know the biggest misconceptions of patents.:

    “It’s the emphasis that they [founders] put. So many folks come to us and they want to build a patent portfolio immediately. There are so many times where good ideas simply aren’t patentable. You need to go a little bit further into the woods.”

  • Patents certainly add value to your start-up idea:

    “If you’re trying to be acquired, it might be nice to have a dozen or two dozen patents. That might add a few million dollars, maybe a million dollars each to your valuation. This is a way to add some value four, five, six years from now. Investors might look at that now and say ‘Hey this is something that can grow into an asset…’”

  • Patents serve as sort of insurance to avoid potential lawsuits:

    “It’s almost like life insurance. It’s trying to keep the worst case scenario from happening. In this case, being sued by a competitor.”

  • Jeff discusses the complications between public disclosure and open feedback such as The Lean Startup forum:

    “A few years ago, before Lean approach became popular, it was fairly easy. Everyone was super secretive, and they didn’t stumble upon themselves. People were more secretive with respect to their own inventions. The problem is its in tension with patent law. You want to get out there, you want to get feedback, but that could be considered as public disclosure. And if it’s a public disclosure, you now already lost your chance to file.”

  • Damn you, Google! Jeff speaks to the idea of ‘new and own’ inventions that employees of big corporations might have:

    “To say that I’ve come up with a new idea and developed intellectual property and it doesn’t belong to Google or Alphabet, I think would be a stretch. That puts a little bit of challenge of when do you file those patents? Who owns those?”

  • As always — the bigger your are, the bigger problems you’re likely to have:

    “If you fail, the larger companies are not going to care. There’s nothing to fight over. If you become the next billion dollar company, you might be bringing some lawsuits out of the woods.”

    About Jeffrey Schox:
    Patent Attorney / Angel Investor

    jeffrey-schox-silicon-valley-talks-startupsJeffrey Schox is the founding member of Schox Patent Group, which builds patent portfolios for startups. He has filed over 1,000 patent applications and has represented 150 early stage startups and a few later stage startups, including Google, Facebook, and Dropbox. His clients have attracted more than $1B from top tier firms, such as Andreessen Horowitz, Founders Fund, Khosla, and Sequoia. Jeff is also an active angel investor with 40 early stage investments, including Karma (acquired by Facebook), Massive Health (acquired by Jawbone), and Twilio.

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