Monday, 24 June 2013

At the June Startup Saturday (Hyderabad) event

How often do we encounter the terms copyright, trademark or patent but don’t really understand what exactly they are or the differences amongst them. The theme of the last Startup Saturday, intellectual property rights was very apt as it sought to explain the nuances surrounding these.

As the chief speaker Ddharaniikota Ssuyodhan of DataHub said, this is a very vast area and his intent was to at least make us think of various mechanisms of protection, if not give indepth knowledge during the session. It was a very interactive and very informative talk and when I entered, the question being discussed was, what can be considered copyright? Similarly, during the course of the talk, he asked questions and the audience gave their own answers, which usually were right but not fully comprehensive.

I jotted down a few points, and they will be useful to you. But disclaimer : for authoritative explanations and guidance you would have to contact lawyers like Ssuyodhan :). Here goes -
  • Copyright belongs to the author. 60 years after the life of the author, the work goes into the public domain.
  • Subscribes to the doctrine of fair use which is kind of subjective.
  • There are organizations called copyright societies. Know about them.
  • There was discussion on copyright vs trademark. To emphasise the difference : music associated (jingle can be trademarked).
  • Cheapest protection is “fair use” and quickest registration is trade mark. When do you register? Go for it as soon as your company is registered.
  • Trademark leads to brand value. trade marks that are offensive, cause scare, and against public morality cannot be registered.
  • Trade mark is registered under classes, meaning there is classification involved.
  • Copyright, trademark, patents are all jurisdiction specific. Copyright and trademark cannot be patented.
  • Patent : Subscribes to the doctrine of prior use & doctrine of first use. Should be new that is, there should be novelty. Patents serve all industries, but mainly manufacturing and pharma sectors in India. In the U.S., tech industry thrives on patents.
  • Computer programs cannot be patented in India but can be protected provided there is a physical system. Source code and algorithms cannot be patented in India.
  • Patent gives absolute right and the maximum protection. They are valid 20 years from public disclosure made in the gazette notification.
  • Interesting ethics point : “patent pending” is cheating the public; people who say that could say patent applied for with xxxx number on yyyy/yy/yy date.
  • India does not have a patent regime. So how to protect technology? Firstly, go for confidentiality : have a robust policy. Secondly, have visibility : know what your software engineers are doing. Startups have wound up because they didn’t have confidential policy and data protection policy.
  • Finally, there was a brief discussion on geographic angle and traditional knowledge to patents.
Kranthi Vistakula, who figured in MIT Technology Review’s top Innovators Under 35 in 2010, was the next speaker. He said patent is a legal right to stop others. He advised startups to have protection as a strategy.
His suggestion was to go for a provisional patent first and after one year go for a full patent. First file a narrow patent and then file continuation application to broaden the patent. Which is what he did for his thermal protection jackets.
Mentioned pct : patent consortium treaty and advised the audience to have a patent assignee agreement with all their employees.
Remembering that Ram Chaitanya Reddy had mentioned about him in the May startup session, I asked Kranthi if he got acquired at a certain value; he said no it was only a valuation done on his product.

The concluding talk was by startupleadership.com folks (one of whom was Jai Eapen, CEO of gyaane.com). Startup Leadership is a worldwide, not-for-profit organization. They started the Hyderabad chapter in 2012. In their startup leadership program (SLP), they conduct 80-hour workshops, every alternate Saturday. The batch size is 20-25 people and the essentials of starting a venture are taught in a better, networked way.

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