Every startup begins with an idea, but what if you don’t have the $60,000 on average that it takes to file a patent on hand right now? Many founders don’t start their businesses with that kind of financial standing and choose to remain bootstrapped. So, how can you prove that you thought up that big idea before anyone else?
Intellectual property lawyer Eli Sheets built his career giving people patents and learning the industry from both the government and enterprise sides after working with several Fortune 500 companies. During that time, he learned not only how difficult it is for people to navigate the patent system, but also how expensive navigating that system can be over the life of a patent.
As blockchain began to take off, Sheets started to see how he could use it to timestamp ideas in a way that couldn’t be challenged in court.
“There’s a big hole in the evidentiary process,” Sheets tells Hypepotamus. “In litigation and for IP suits in the last half of the century, the kind of evidence that was brought in was usually hand-dated lab notebooks or notes from inside of a company to prove when something happened. But really, that wasn’t cutting it for most judges.”
Sheets founded Raleigh-based legaltech startup IdeaBlock to help startup founders and creators protect their ideas early on, before they have the funds for the patent process.
“Whether it’s a patent, a trademark, a trade secret, or copyright, if you were first, you’re gonna win at the end of the day and there’s been no way to prove that you are first — until now. We provide that proof,” says Sheets.
The concept behind IdeaBlock is fairly simple. Once you have your documentation — anything from files and communication to a book manuscript — you upload them to IdeaBlock. The platform converts them into a unique set of numbers and letters and are then added to the blockchain.
The platform doesn’t replace the patent or trademark process. Instead, it helps founders timestamp their ideas through IdeaBlock’s blockchain technology as they’re developing them. If necessary, founders can also use the information they uploaded to IdeaBlock to defend themselves in court. They’re also publicly auditable and continuously validated.
“This means you can point back at any given time and prove that you had this idea first if you’re ever sued by someone who holds a patent or trademark on this idea,” says Sheets. “So, we fill that time gap for you.”
Sheets also made sure that using the platform’s interface was as easy as using any other social media tool to help solo inventors. Founders can upload, categorize, and organize all of their ideas on the dashboard. It also provides vital notifications on renewals, deadlines, proper documentation, and more.
While individuals can use the product for free, IdeaBlock targets large enterprises that lack in-house IP teams and emerging startups with ongoing research and development projects.
“It’s a way to level the playing field for companies that are smaller and dealing with other incumbent companies that have a more mature IP policy internally and have the bucks to go get it right,” says Sheets.
IdeaBlock is now in the final stages of their beta phase and will be launching its enterprise product release this month. The platform will operate on a tiered subscription model based on number of seats.
The startup closed a $500,000 family and friends round in September 2018 and has begun conversations for their seed round in order to scale customer acquisition and add new verticals to the platform, like biotech, music, video, and new media.