Some people say AI and software shouldn’t be patented.
But what do successful founders say?
“If a startup wants to grow into a big company, patents help maintain an armed truce with other big companies. If a startup wants to get bought, they should apply for patents because patents attract acquirers.”
-Paul Graham, founder, Y Combinator
“Everyone has patents, so we have patents too. They come in handy.”
-Tobias Lütke, founder, Shopify
“Patents are for the weak.”
-Elon Musk, founder, Tesla, SpaceX and others.
Elon’s view is just as applicable as Paul’s and Tobias’ – patents can help companies, like startups and SMEs, that are inherently weaker than the bigger incumbents.
As each founder points out above, well-planned patents can:
🔹 make you a more attractive acquisition target
🔹 improve your ability to defend yourself
🔹 help level the playing field.
But a “well-planned” patent isn’t just any patent – especially in AI & software. To be effective, a patent must align with your business strategy, and cover something that differentiates your business from others.
To do that takes some introspection and reflection:
🔹 What ideas or technology differentiate your business?
🔹 Which differentiators play important roles in your business goals, such as growing a user base or attracting new customers?
🔹 What kind of leverage would improve the effectiveness of your differentiators?
Having a good understanding of how your IP powers your business is essential before embarking on your patent journey.
Did you know? Tesla files more EV patents than any other EV manufacturer, including lots of AI and software patents. And SpaceX has increased its patent filings 1600% over the last 5 years.
I think Elon’s insight into patent use cases is more complex than it first appears.
You have IP already. (It’s true). Optimizing your approach can provide unexpected tailwinds for your business.