Minneapolis patent attorney Mark Stignani discusses the ground rules for entering into a joint venture.
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The first rule in the IP world is patent the high moral ground or protect what you have and what you think you’re going to get out of it. So, before you get into relationship, you should have a discussion with your tech team and your strategic people, and have them explain to you, “We want in five years time to be at this point technologically, at this point in a market position, at this point financially.” And if you understand that ahead of time, then you can actually start to set intellectual property placeholders, if you will, out in front of those strategies, that allow you then to go patent those things, then start talking about your relationship, and then you have a proof that you thought of it before you got into the joint venture relationship, so there’s never any doubt about what was invented first.
The next thing is you need to set really strong goals for what you want to accomplish out of that, so that you want to bring a partner into a market but only so far. You don’t bring them into a competitive parity, or you want them to be an acquisition in five years. You want to make sure you have those goals in mind when you start this joint venture relationship as well, because that will color that IP you create, the relationships you make, and then the level of what you bring integration together with that partner.