Friday, October 26, 2012

IP Law and Business Plan Competition

In the second half of October, our TI:GER class has started to focus more on intellectual property and patent law. Our weekly classes have been held at Emory with great guest lecturers that are able to tailor these legal concepts to an audience with a wide range of backgrounds. While I don't think law school is for me, it has been very interesting to get an insight into the patent process and how it relates to innovation. For instance, there are strict rules surrounding the timing of public disclosure or display of an invention and filing for a patent. This will be very important for out team as we seek outside help on our project because it limits what we can share about our product in the absense of a non-disclosure agreement. I'll also need to watch what I say in this blog- luckily most of the disclosure related to our project is of a highly technical nature and I wouldn't understand it enough to describe it accurately.

We are also conducting a prior art search for our product. This involves finding references (usually previous patents or academic papers, but other sources are included) to materials or processes related to our product. A solid understand of what is and is not novel about our idea will determine what the claims of our eventual patent can be. We would obviously like for our patent to be as general as possible because that would force more companies operating in a similar space to pay licensing fees for use of our patent. We are also generating a list of patents that we will need to license use of to produce our product as well. The interdependency of patents in manufacturing has been a very interesting concept to learn academically and I'm excited about applying it to our project in particular.

Our TI:GER team has also been debating participation in the Georgia Tech BPC. This annual competition compares start-up business models that groups of GT students have created. These models can either be a purely academic exercise, or as a precursor to actually creating a start-up venture. While the competition isn't until next semester, there is an outstanding lecture series on alternating Tuesday nights that help walk teams through the process of upgrading an idea to a business. While we cover a lot of this material in TI:GER, these lectures are presented by Venture Lab and provide a slightly different perspective than the TI:GER lectures (focusing less on the legal and technical challenges). My main take away from the lecture this week was the importance of customer identification and need. Much more research has been done for our TI:GER project on the solution (PhD) than the problem. In response, we're planning on getting out in the field and doing customer and market research in the coming weeks to understand the extent and the responses to mobile power generation. I'm looking forward to understanding more of this complex issue and tailoring our solution to meet a generic need.

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