These are some basic questions VCs and Investors ask before investing in a start-up.
- What is the value of Intellectual Property (IP) for the start-up’s business, revenues and competitive advantage in the market?
- Is the start up IP driven?
- How strong is the start-up’s IP portfolio when compared with its competitors?
- Is the IP ownership clear, and are all link documents in place?
- Will the IP Portfolio help in retaining revenues, and opening new revenue opportunities?
- Is the start-up’s IP licensable and sellable?
- What is the financial value of the start-up’s IP portfolio?
- Has the start-up protected all forms of IP such as patents, trademarks, copyrights, designs, etc?
- Does the start-up have a well framed IP and Confidentiality policy and process in place? Is it following the policy/process strictly?
- Is the start-up following IP best practices?
- Has the start-up taken necessary steps to avoid/mitigate IP risks?
- Are there any litigation, oppositions, conflicts or encumbrances with respect to the start-up’s IP?
- Is the start-up technology driven?
- Does the start-up have exclusivity in the market through its patents?
- What is the quality of its patents, and where do they stand with respect to similar patents/technologies?
- Have patents been filed on time? Are there any risks from prior sale, publication, or other actions before patent filing?
- Has the start-up signed appropriate agreements with employees, inventors, consultants, and others to secure clear ownership?
- What is the worth of the patent portfolio? Is it being efficiently managed?
- Have patent applications been filed in all relevant markets? Is the opportunity of filing still open, and are the patent filings within required timelines?
- Are the patents licensable? Who are some potential licensees?
- Are the start-ups patents in good hands? Does it follow patent best practices?
- What is the worth of the start-up’s patent portfolio?
- Has the start-up taken steps to avoid/mitigate patent risks through FTO analysis, and other risk assessments?
- Are there any pending patent disputes, litigation, oppositions or invalidation?
- Does the start-up hold strong trademarks?
- Has it filed for registration of its marks in relevant classes?
- Has the start-up cleared trade mark risks?
- Have searches been performed properly? Are there any diluting/conflicting marks?
- Does the start-up hold domain names with respect to its marks?
- What is the financial value of the start-up’s trade marks?
- Is there a proper agreement with mark/logo designers?
- Are there any pending trade mark litigation, oppositions or conflicts?
- Are trade mark notices properly given?
- Has the start-up protected its copyrights appropriately?
- Does it have any copyright registrations?
- Are copyright notices placed on all works?
- Is copyright ownership clear?
- Are there proper agreements with web-designers, creative designers, etc?
- If the start-up is content driven, are the copyrights being licensed appropriately?
- Are rights being appropriately divided and sub-divided? Are there specific agreements for specific means/modes?
- Are rights acquisition agreements clear, and free from encumbrances?
FOR E-COMMERCE STARTUPS
Does the start-up have a well defined set of legal instruments?
- Terms and Conditions
- User Agreements
- Take Down policies, if required
Does the start-up’s IP help in stopping competitors or making it difficult for them? What is the IP’s competitive value?
Are all interfaces, processes, marks/logos, domain names, inventions, etc, appropriately protected?
Is the start-up an intermediary? Does it follow all requisites to claim intermediary safe harbour?
Disclaimer: The list of questions provided in this document/post are only illustrative and not exhaustive. Also, the nature of questions varies based on the nature of the business, level of investment, extent of progress, etc.
This does not constitute advice, or opinion of any sort, and a start-up may acquire opinion of an expert before embarking on an investment acquisition plan.