The Importance of Intellectual Property for Entrepreneurs – A Short Talk With Dr. Sudhir Borgonha

First Publication Date: 1st May 2008
Dr. Sudhir is a graduate from St. John’s Medical College and Sloan School of Management, MIT. He has been on the founding team of three life sciences companies which include Angstrom Medica, Massachusetts, a nanotechnology based orthopedics application Company; Triesta Sciences, California, a genomics based cancer research organization and ClinTest International, Michigan. He currently serves as a CEO of ClinTest International and also runs Sandbox, a life Sciences Incubator.
Q1. What is the value of IP for entrepreneurs in knowledge driven sectors?
IP for entrepreneurs is of tremendous value. Knowledge driven sectors are essentially that – knowledge driven. To capture that knowledge in a tangible value additive manner is critical for all entrepreneurs in the knowledge driven industry. That said, it is extremely challenging for entrepreneurs to have IP upon starting out. Therefore, a better strategy to adopt is to have IP captured as the enterprise grows. Knowledge driven sectors are a very iterative domain and as the entrepreneur understands more on his/her domain, the potential for IP becomes clearer.
Q2. What is the perspective of Indian entrepreneurs and VCs towards IP?
Entrepreneurs do not have a mindset towards IP in India. This is a universal phenomenon but more apparent in India. There are three reasons around this: First, is the lack of understanding of the value of IP in a portfolio or business enterprise. Second is the inability to articulate or illustrate what is the exact nature of the IP. Third is the lack of supportive infrastructure for IP generation, i.e. lawyers, consultants etc.
VC’s would love to see IP on an entrepreneur’s portfolio. However, most opportunities in India are still in the service sector, which is not built on a portfolio that requires IP. Therefore, the VC’s attitude to IP, although extremely desirable has shifted towards the rigor of a low-risk business model than an IP intrinsic high-risk business model. The opposite is true internationally.
Q3. What are different options available to entrepreneurs who develop strong IP portfolios?
Very little options are available to entrepreneurs today with regard to IP. IP is still seen as an esoteric component that is the purview of large companies that can invest several millions into IP creation. While that may be true, it is also true that IP can be obtained with very little upfront money and can be equally important even if the patent is small in its applications.
The biggest problem that Indian entrepreneurs face is not having adequate guidance from experts – for a simple reason, the IP business has not reached a level of sophistication that say, a BPO business has. There are not enough people who can be accessed easily by a cash strapped entrepreneur who will help devise an IP strategy. The issue is one of understanding and developing an IP strategy not owing a few random IP’s. That sort of strategic guidance requires the efforts of experts who not only know how to file a patent but are able to understand the meaning of a patent and the value that would come down the road from additional IP’s.
Q4. What are the steps an entrepreneur should take to protect and commercialize his Intellectual Assets and when should he first start thinking about IP?
An entrepreneur should start looking at IP as soon as she/he hits upon an idea. The idea is personal and may be a long way off from fruition but it is unique. The first thing for the entrepreneur to do is to understand that the idea is unique. If it is not unique in some way, what would make it unique? After the uniqueness if the idea is established, the tangible components that require it to translate into a unique entity need to be worked upon. IP is on ongoing value creative process – you never stop thinking of it.
Q5. Can you cite a few examples of companies, which started and did very well using their IP portfolio?

  1. Angstrom Medica – started on a single patent. Is now the first nanotechnology based medical device company to get FDA approvals.
  2. Texas Instruments- a company with a strong IP Portfolio makes approximately 800 million dollars every year by licensing its IP.

Source/Attribution here. (This image is in public domain)

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