I’ve known Ilya for a long time, and as my interest in innovation has grown, so his professional field of intellectual property (IP) has become ever more fascinating, so I was delighted that he agreed to talk to me. Our conversation ranged over a number of topics from Brexit to clotted cream, which made editing difficult —it was all so interesting I wanted to keep it all in. Here are some of the best bits for your enjoyment.
Ilya — you are a patent attorney and a partner at Mathys & Squire, a leading firm of intellectual property lawyers. Can you start by telling me what a patent attorney does?
Essentially, I advise people on how to navigate around other people’s intellectual property (IP), and develop an IP strategy that protects what they need to protect while avoiding getting sued or getting into difficulties down the line.
What sort and size of companies do you work with?
I work with some very large companies, some of whom have bought startups, and I work with a number of startups. I’ve seen startups go from a few people in a loft to a reasonable size company: some have exited for quite reasonable sums of money, and for some the IP has been a major part of that exit value.
Let’s talk about startups — do they often consider IP right from the beginning?
A lot more now than they used to, because generally they’re keen to get investment and investors want to know what they’re investing in. It depends on the field: if you’re essentially a retail business then IP is probably a lot less critical (although bear in mind that Ocado has lots of high technology in delivery and warehousing, as does Amazon), but if you’ve got a product it’s much more important. And if you’re in the medical or technology fields it’s almost essential, because many products are high margin but quite easy to copy once you’ve made them, so if you haven’t got protected IP you can’t protect your margins.
Also published on Medium.