Summer Entrepreneurial Experiences

Author Archive

Hurry Up and Wait

Wednesday, June 21, 2017 3:46 pm

The main challenge facing SimpullCork right now is responding to the office action on our patent. This is difficult to me as a founder because this process is largely out of my hands, given the fact that I am far from a patent attorney. At this point, I must trust that we have assembled the best team to respond effectively to our office action. I try to be as active as possible reading drafts and providing my input to ensure that our vision of the product remains constant through the whole patenting process.

In the meantime, I am focusing on our path forward after our response is filled. This involves researching the wine industry landscape and determining which path would best suit our company to introduce our product to the market. I am fortunate to have great mentors and advisors to help counsel me through this process, as well as use their personal connections to afford me the opportunity to ask questions to industry experts. Though we are in a phase of hurry up and wait, I am staying focused on the end goal!

“But how?”

Thursday, June 8, 2017 11:49 am

Hannah and I founded SimpullCork on an idea and a rough prototype mock up. For about a year that is all we used to pitch and demonstrate our product because, quite simply, it worked. From very early on people began to ask, “but how does it work?” That was a question that we previously did not have an answer to and have spent the past two months pouring into engineering and industrial design to answer it.

Fit is extremely important to me and Hannah when choosing who we do business with. That’s why we spent many hours calling, emailing, and meeting with potential firms before we made our final decision of who we would work with. I believe all the up-front time and effort was certainly worth it in the long run. We ended up with a firm who shared our vision and passion for our product. They wanted us to be intimately involved in the design process, updating us regularly and asking for our thoughts and feedback.

We now have multiple methods of production for our product. We went in to the project only expecting one design, but are thrilled that others emerged through the process. Not only did this process yield engineering specs and drawings, but it also yielded data that confirmed our product does indeed make it easier to remove a cork and much more. In the immediate future, we are using this data to further our IP claims.

How the Nation’s Highest Court is Helping Startups

Friday, May 26, 2017 2:20 pm

This summer I will be working on three of my own ventures, all with unique intellectual property (IP) claims. I believe that IP protection is critical to innovation. Without protection of ideas, individuals cannot reap the full benefits of their inventions and subsequently focus less on research and development. The complex systems of IP and patent law have fascinated me ever since we filed our first patent on our EZ Cork technology. EZ Cork (operating as Simpull Cork) is an integrated loop system in synthetic cork which allows a consumer to open a wine bottle without the use of external tools and for the original cork to be placed back into the bottle and reused. Now that we are in the thick of the patenting process, I am trying to learn as much as I can about the US patent system. Recently The Supreme Court handed down a ruling that will affect all of us with IP claims, so I wanted to share.

Background

The Supreme Court recently ruled on TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods which began as a simple patent infringement suit, but quickly took national significance as it called into question where cases like these could be tried. Until the Supreme Court’s ruling this week, patent lawsuits could be heard all across the country, giving companies the opportunity to seek out courts where the odds were tilted in their favor. This led to a kind of clustering, where a handful of federal courts became responsible for deciding a huge number of patent cases. One major example is the Eastern District of Texas, which is notorious both for hearing a lot of patent infringement cases and also for handing accusers big wins.

What Does It Means to Us

This ruling is a big deal, particularly for small companies. The court voted unanimously to say that patent lawsuits should be tried where the defending company is based, rather than in a court of the plaintiff’s choosing. Legal analysts say this decision could shift a huge number of cases away from “plaintiff-friendly” districts and toward more “neutral” venues where a defending company stands a better chance of fending off a suit.

Startups often worry about being sued by firms that simply hold a lot of patents, but don’t use them to manufacture any goods. These are called “nonpracticing entities,” or “patent trolls,” because their main source of revenue comes from suing companies for infringement and hoping they settle, rather than using their patents to create things. Trolls lose if the company it’s targeting calls its bluff — if it takes the nonpracticing entity to court and wins. This becomes more likely, analysts say, if patent cases can be heard in venues other than the ones that trolls prefer. If startups can spend less time and money on frivolous lawsuits, they can reinvest those resources into further innovation.

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