An entrepreneur might have the best idea since sliced bread, but if they're unable to protect it with the relevant patents, trademarks or copyrights, there's a good chance they won't see the fruits that their labor otherwise might deserve.
However, the intellectual property (IP) management process is fraught with friction, from the initial idea-evaluation and application-filing, through the renewing, enforcing and monetizing stages. This is something that RightHub is looking to address, serving what it calls the "infrastructure for protecting innovation and brands" through an all-in-one platform that connects all the strands and stakeholders from patent offices to law firms. At its core, the RightHub platform is designed to simplify and centralize what is traditionally a heavily fragmented industry.
Founded in early 2021, RightHub has some 75 staff across Europe and the U.S., and already lays claim to big-name clients, including pharmaceutical giant GSK, multinational law firm Pinsent Mason and Swedish eye-tracking tech company Tobii. To take things to the next level, the London-based startup today announced it has raised $15 million in a sizeable seed round of funding led by Firstminute Capital and Anker Capital, with participation from several undisclosed angel investors.
State of play
Recent data from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) found that industries which "intensively use" IP protection constitute more than 41% of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), and employ around one-third of the country's workforce. European figures tell a similar story, with a recent report from the European Patent Office (EPO) and European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) noting that industries "making intensive use" of IP rights generated more than 47% of the EU's GDP, accounting for nearly 30% of all jobs.
However, while IP management is fairly straightforward when a company has a single patent or trademark to protect, as those numbers rise into the dozens or even hundreds, keeping on top of things is a labor-intensive process involving all manner of personnel and administration.
Trademark details in the RightHub platform. Image Credits: RightHub
There is already software to solve at lease some of the problems, including from giants such as Clarivate and Anaqua, while there are VC-backed upstarts such as PatSnap and IPRally. But RightHub says that rather than focusing on one specific service such as patent searches or filings or renewals, it's focusing on it all -- with collaboration and communication at the heart of it all.
Indeed, RightHub says that it hosts a database of all published patents globally, which is updated weekly to ensure that searches, portfolio onboarding, data verification and so on is pretty much up-to-date. The company also says it has started the process of integrating with patent and trademark offices for e-filing and e-correspondence purposes, meaning that it provides in-app collaboration to both internal and external stakeholders.
"The problem with IP is that when you want to seek protection across multiple jurisdictions around the world -- which is of course the norm -- you will have to go to your email and start sending out instructions to law firms across the world to help you file applications in each country," Nijm explained to TechCrunch. "All that correspondence then happens over email and must subsequently be transferred to an IP software platform to upload documents and track deadlines etc. Same thing applies to every other activity in the IP lifecycle like renewing IP rights, changing ownership, enforcements, litigations, oppositions and so on. This requires a huge amount of manual administrative effort and cost."
Brand protection in RightHub. Image Credits: RightHub
Protecting an invention or brand is not a one-time action, it's a continuous, never-ending process. This might start with an online search to see what the lay of the land is in terms of prior art -- that is, has someone already beaten an inventor or creator to the patent punch? If not, they then have to file an application in each jurisdiction they want protection, pay for renewals to maintain their IP rights and track for potential infringements further down the line.
"In RightHub, they will be able to run the full end-to-end journey by adding the actual invention or brand and then conducting all the various activities from within the same platform, thus communicating with law firms and patent and trademark offices around the world as well as internally within the organization," Nijm said.
According to Nijm, RightHub is something akin to what GoDaddy promises in the world of website creation, insofar as GoDaddy allows anyone to search, register and renew domain names, with additional tools for building and hosting websites.
In terms of pricing, while there are free elements to the platform, users subscribe to specific services such as competitor monitoring, trademark watching and online brand protection. They also can pay one-off transaction fees for filing applications and renewals, or registering a change of ownership. "Depending on the type of customer, they will typically have a pricing combination of subscription and transactional," Nijm said.
While the cost of using RightHub is borne by the customer directly, Nijm says that because its customers' external IP partners are exposed to the RightHub platform too, this is creating an organic source of new business.
"Think of how DocuSign works when you ask someone to sign a contract," Nijm said. "That person or entity doesn't need to purchase DocuSign or have ever seen it before. This exact process is bringing quite a nice pipeline of new customers [to RightHub] as they interact with the product on behalf of RightHub customers."