Hester Sheehan, Research Scientist at Arctoris, reflects on her IP journey on World Intellectual Property Day.
April 26th is World Intellectual Property Day and as someone about to embark on a career in this field, I thought this would be a timely opportunity to discuss my thoughts on the importance of intellectual property (IP) for early-stage companies and also to reflect on the intellectual property experience I have been fortunate enough to have so far at Arctoris.
For early-stage companies, establishing a solid IP strategy that aligns with a company’s core objectives and budget forms a critical part of early business development and is something that should be started as early as possible. As a company grows, this strategy should be revisited regularly with a holistic approach which not only considers the IP owned by the company but also potential IP risks from third-party competitors. It is key to understand that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all strategy.
Establishing and protecting IP early on gives early-stage companies a degree of leverage that can be used to limit competition from others in the field. Let’s take a hypothetical example of an early-stage company filing a patent for a specific technology. Even if the patent has not yet been granted, if the company can prove they have a patent pending for a certain technology, competitors may be forced to change their approach to that technology or may be deterred altogether. IP needs to be identified at the point of creation and innovative ideas should not be dismissed as not being clever enough to be worthy of protection.
It is key to understand that there is no such thing as a ‘one-size-fits-all’ strategy.
Continued capital investment is critical for early-stage companies and investors often value companies based on the strength of their IP portfolio. Types of IP such as patents, trademarks, copyright, designs and trade secrets, can all be used to showcase one company’s value over others. Investors carry out due diligence before investing and so an established portfolio of IP assets is an attractive way to prove that a company isinvestment-ready.
When it comes to IP, quality definitely outweighs quantity: it is better to have fewer well-devised IP assets than many which are vulnerable to infringement. As the costs associated with IP protection are typically high, it is important for newly established companies to critically assess whether protecting specific IP assets will be profitable in the long term. In a situation where the asset could generate revenue from subsequent licensing or create blocks for competitors in the field, an investment would make commercial sense.
Now to touch on my personal IP journey at Arctoris and the value of getting hands-on experience within a biotech company.
Relevant work experience within the IP field is not something that is easy to stumble across but, although I have been primarily working as a research scientist in the lab, for the last few months I have been fortunate enough to be heavily involved in some of Arctoris’ patent work. From writing up detailed descriptions of an invention and discussing the core concepts with the inventor to meeting with an established patent attorney, this experience has provided invaluable first-hand experience of how the patent filing process works.
When it comes to IP, quality definitely outweighs quantity: it is better to have fewer well-devised IP assets than many which are vulnerable to infringement.
Working in biotech has also been a fantastic way to enhance my commercial awareness as I have been exposed to a wide range of patentable technologies ranging from highly technical scientific methods to complex robot components. I spent my industrial placement year working at GlaxoSmithKline and this, together with my time at Arctoris, has made me appreciate the sheer amount of time, effort and money which go into creations of the mind. It seems only fair that these things should be protected, and I firmly believe that innovators should profit from their inventions as an incentive for progress and innovation.
Few people realise how great a role IP plays in our lives, from the long-running patent war over CRISPR to the ongoing trademark battle between Marks and Spencer’s Colin the Caterpillar and Aldi’s Cuthbert! I think we are living in extremely exciting times for IP and as our technology becomes ever more sophisticated, protecting IP is going to become increasingly relevant. I look forward to developing the skills I have practised during my time at Arctoris when I begin my training to become a patent attorney later this year.
About the author: Hester Sheehan is a Research Scientist at Arctoris. Hester completed her Master’s degree in Biochemistry at the University of Birmingham. She worked as an industrial placement for GlaxoSmithKline in the Screening, Profiling and Mechanistic Biology department where her work centred around assay development with a particular focus on the use of three-dimensional culture systems. At Arctoris, she works within the biochemistry team but, looking forward, will be using her scientific and technical skills to pursue a career in intellectual property as a patent attorney.