Pitching can be one of the most important stages for a business looking to scale. Whether you’re looking for investment partners, potential collaborators, or setting up a crowdfunding campaign to generate hype and customer traction, it’s likely that you’re also going to reveal details about your business plans.
If you decide to go down this path it is important to think about the implications this can have on your potential intellectual property rights. Especially if you haven’t already taken steps to protect your IP.
Upon making your first public disclosure (or use) of your invention, a 12 months grace period applies to your patent application. If you file beyond this 12 month period, that initial public disclosure can actually stand in the way of your application.
You should also beware that whilst some countries have their own grace period provisions, many countries do not have grace period provisions at all. This will hamper your protection options should you choose to expand to these markets in future.
To avoid revealing details of your invention, one approach you can consider is to frame your pitch according to the problem that you are solving, rather than the solution that you have employed. You can then discuss aspects of your invention with interested parties later when you have a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) in place to keep the details confidential.
Similar to patents, there are grace period provisions for designs in Australia. The grace period for designs came into effect on 10 March 2022 and only applies to applications filed on or after this date, and disclosures that occur on or after this date.
The grace period protects those who accidentally publish, or those who were unaware they needed to file for protection before disclosure. The grace period is limited to publications or uses of a design in the 12 month period prior to the priority date of a design application.
Every case will be assessed on its own facts the applicant must provide relevant information in a declaration to establish the applicability of the grace period provision.
Follow your IP Strategy
The best way to avoid the above is to carefully consider your IP strategy up front. What are the aspects of your business that require protection? Are there options where being open about your IP outweighs obtaining formal protection? Being clear about the priorities in your IP strategy will dictate your course of action.
This may mean you apply for your IP rights before going public, or make sure that anything you discuss is under the umbrella of an NDA. You may consider only protecting aspects of your brand through trade marks. You might rely on a first-to-market strategy by establishing your brand as the market leader without relying on other forms of protection. the important part is to make the informed choice. Your IP professional can help you consider your options.