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IP Chalk Talk

On Start-Up Companies

By Andy Bluvas

Clemson University researchers are often motivated to expand their activities outside of their labs and shift their efforts from pure research to entrepreneurial activities. 

By founding or participating in a start-up company, University faculty can be directly involved in the commercialization of their inventions. Additionally, they can benefit from their lab discovery transforming into a successful product capable of having real-world impact. 

In this scenario, an early-stage company must continually leverage its technology to derive value for its business, grow its customer base, and secure third-party investment. 

Intellectual property is a crucial asset of most early-stage companies and can be a critical component of their products and services. A vital step in the formation of every successful business is developing a solution to an unmet market need. A technology's "value proposition" is derived from the value that comes along with a customer's willingness to pay for a solution to their problems.  

A value proposition can be amplified by sufficiently protecting one's intellectual property to preserve a company's competitive advantage. CURF manages and protects Clemson's IP portfolio through various means, including patent and copyright protection. With a patent or copyright, a university spin-out company can restrict its competitors from making, selling, using, or copying its technology. In addition, if a start-up's proprietary information is kept secret from its competitors, that start-up can also gain legal IP protection as a trade secret. 

Third-party investors will typically want to see some form of IP protection to help de-risk their investment. A start-up company with a protected IP position will usually be more attractive to investors than those without protectable IP. Despite the importance of IP to a prospective investment, investors will also be looking heavily at a technology's value proposition, the individual founders of the company, and the company's go-to-market strategy. 

CURF works with Clemson start-up companies by protecting and licensing IP through various types of agreements. An Option Agreement is often the first step to a commercial license and gives a company a limited right to develop a technology, conduct business diligence, and secure investment. Once milestones are mutually agreeable, a company can execute its option and work with CURF to secure full commercial rights to a technology under a License Agreement. 

Faculty members interested in securing commercial rights to Clemson technology should do the following: 

  • Disclose their IP to CURF. 
  • Work with CURF through its Opportunity Assessment to protect the IP. 
  • Submit a licensing application to CURF 
  • Form a separate business entity.  
  • Secure rights to the technology through an Option and Limited Use Agreement. 

Have questions about how to form a business or license Clemson IP? Submit an Inquiry Intake Form 

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