I recently met a software developer who wants to start a business. He immediately started talking to me about obtaining a patent. Condensed a bit, our conversation went roughly as follows:
- Dana: Without giving away information that would jeopardize your ability to obtain a patent, what would the software do?
- Developer: It is enterprise customer relationship management (CRM) software.
- Dana: What is novel and non-obvious about it?
- Developer: It will be based on a unique algorithm.
- Dana: You cannot patent an algorithm.
- Developer: I can get a patent on software that implements an algorithm.
- Dana: Perhaps. But there are other means, such as trade secrets, that might adequately protect the software [cut off in mid-sentence]….
- Developer: VCs want to invest in companies that have patents.
Leaving aside the singular focus on VC funding – something that few entrepreneurs obtain (see Realistic Financing Options for Startup Companies) – the would-be entrepreneur was similarly myopic in focusing on a patent as the only type of intellectual property that matters.