By Eric Mayes, PhD, CEO, Endomagnetics Ltd

Edison holds 1,093 of them; Einstein around 50; and Bell was awarded his first for the telephone in 1876. It’s been a success enabler for inventors throughout history: the patent. And while the greats may boast them aplenty, it’s important that perhaps less-famed inventors and small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) follow in these originators’ footsteps and protect their creativity too.

Intellectual property (IP) is not only for prominent inventors or internal corporates. If you’re an SME with a product that is unique to the market, you’ll need to patent it or have other forms of IP (such as trademarks or copyright) to secure investment, maintain the idea’s value and to reach even close to Edison’s renown.

Securing investment
As the old adage goes, money makes the world go around. For SMEs without funding, developing and then getting your product to market can prove extremely difficult. So with securing investment such a business-critical factor, it’s good to know that IP can greatly improve your chances of obtaining an investor’s financial backing. In fact, both patents and patent applications have been shown to attract more investors and larger amounts of investment. Perhaps this is unsurprising, when you consider that investors are unlikely to part with their money if they’re hesitant about a product’s market strength or its ability to generate a strong ROI.

It’s not only more funding that can be achieved with a patent, but research shows that an issued patent, or even a patent application, could speed up your venture capital funding too — by 76 per cent in fact. In my own organisation’s experience, Endomagnetics licensed the first patent filing related to SentiMag® in 2007; this enabled us to get investment, hold clinical trials, and ultimately transform an idea into a product in the market.

Getting there first
The business world is competitive, so if you have a unique product idea, IP will be crucial to helping you establish yourself in the marketplace. If you’re a small business, constructing an early, protected position in the market could be key to your success. This might explain why SMEs file more patents and trademarks relative to their assets and number of employees than larger companies .
Since Endomagnetics’ establishment and first patent, we have filed eight patent families for original design, formulations and improvements to design. Doing this has enabled us to achieve a reasonable uptake in the market in a relatively short time — we’ve treated over 1,000 patients across 14 countries to date.

Improving your bottom line
Whatever your new product idea is, it’s likely to be more valuable with IP. Products or services with IP have been found to be worth between 180 to 240 per cent more than those without it. It’s not only product value that’s proven to increase either: companies using IP rights can also significantly increase their market valuation, turnover, investment and employee growth.

Understand IP, understand your market
If you’re new to it, the prospect of patenting your ideas might seem daunting, but it needn’t prove an unnerving experience. You’re not alone — so consider networking with other SMEs and seeing how they’ve gone about the patent process, or exploring online resources with IP information and guidance, such as the European Patent Office (EPO), the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) or websites such as Ideas Matter. Remember: managing IP is also an important business skill and will help you better understand your market — and your product’s place in it.

So while securing a patent for your product may not make you the next Edison or Einstein, IP will certainly help you drive business success, in the near- and long-term future. By protecting your creativity, you’ll ensure your ideas can go from idea to actuality.