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IP Protection From The Other Side Of The Fence

IP Protection From The Other Side Of The Fence


Starting a new technology business is a very stressful experience and at times feels like an endless bombardment of costs from all directions. As funding and investment is now harder to obtain, protecting valuable IP is a major expense and can be a huge factor in a business’s viability.

In order to encourage growth and innovation it may be worth following a longer term plan of action and offering a flexible approach to small businesses Intellectual Property requirements which will always be monetary challenged from the outset.

When I started Swimovate, making PoolMate watches for swimmers to automatically count their laps, I did so on a shoestring budget of just £15,000. Initially we just didn’t have the funds to pay a lawyer to assemble our IP portfolio. I spent many weeks patent searching and researching prior art, online and at the British Library. I became extremely familiar with the patents that had been published and confident enough to attempt to write an application of our own. You may shrink in horror at this but I spent sufficient time and research to really know my subject inside out and began to understand how patents were assembled. I was lucky to be recommended to fellow triathlete Alex Frost and Jo Pelly at Boult Wade Tennant who understood my product, budget and appreciated the work I had put in. They reformatted my self-written GB application at very little cost and later added our claims. To both our credits it was granted with very little trouble and expense.

Our lawyers have of course, had much repeat business over the last 4 years and Swimovate now has a patent and trademark portfolio covering GB, Europe and USA.

The world of Intellectual Property protection is very daunting and overwhelming to someone starting a business. However they are the expert in the subject so can sometimes do a lot of the hard work putting together the ground work for a patent application. This is providing they can invest the time and have an understanding of what’s involved. Of course, once the business is established and making money, then more funds will be available for legal expenses and the lawyers will take on more of the work. As times get tougher in the current economic climate, all types of businesses need to look at alternative approaches to working practises. An open minded and flexible approach can often help that company become established and will pay off in the end.

Swimovate has gone from strength to strength, we have sold over 40,000 PoolMate watches to swimmers in over 60 countries worldwide with a turnover of around £2 million. By keeping our costs low in the initial stages we expanded rapidly and were in profit within 3 months of our first sales. We are now ploughing profits back into further research and development and will be expanding our IP portfolio with the help of our IP lawyers in 2012.

Lisa Irlam CEO
Nectar small business Entrepreneur of the year 2011

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