The public policymakers of India have introduced several schemes and programs to empower Startups and Micro Medium Small Enterprises (MSMEs). The aim of such schemes is to nurture, protect and encourage Startups and MSMEs, thereby generating more employment, increase exports and to holistically improve the country's economy. In trudging the path of a growing knowledge-based economy, it is important for Startups and MSMEs to embrace Intellectual Property (IP) protection, especially for their technologies, knowhow and brands. There is ample evidence, as witnessed in the past decade, that Startups and MSMEs which apply for patents, trademarks or designs are more likely to grow quickly and succeed than those that do not.

The benefits reaped by Startups and MSMEs in protecting their IP assets are manifold. Following are few examples through which Startups and MSMEs built their businesses using IP protection as key element.

  • Growing license sales and royalty values: Dr. Milind Rane, a freelance consultant conceived and developed the design for Matrix Heat Recovery Unit (MHRC)1. The invention relates to a heat exchanger – an innovative compact design to heat fluids using "waste" heat from exhausts and can be used to heat a variety of fluids. It can recover heat from hot gases and/or vapors from engines, gensets, boilers or furnaces. Heat is recovered in the form of steam, hot water or hot thermic fluid. Dr. Rane signed a MoU with Unidyne, (a small-scale company) which granted a license to Unidyne to manufacture and sell the MHRUs as engine exhaust fired steam generators and water and thermic heaters. The agreement stipulated a royalty rate of 4.5% of net sales for the inventor. Revenues generated from the down payment and the royalties have helped in the development of other inventions. The process leading to commercialization of the MHRC was an eye opener for Dr. Rane on the potential benefits that can result from effective use of the patent system.
  • Winning Venture Capital (VC) funding: Yulu Bikes Private Ltd is a pioneer2 in micro-mobility space in India that has made urban mobility seamless, affordable and sustainable. The electric bicycle and rental startup is targeting commuters' first and last mile connectivity requirements via dockless, battery-powered two-wheelers. IP protection of Yulu bikes include Patents, Trademarks, domain name and design of Yulu bikes. Such strong IP protection has led several investors including Uber, Blume ventures, 3one4 capital, Wavemaker, etc. to collaborate with Yulu to build a large-scale micro-mobility business in India.
  • Making Startups/MSMEs more valuable for acquisition: Mech-Mocha Game Studios, initially known as Hungry Games Pvt. Ltd. is a mobile game development company3 started in 2011. The company has successfully developed a product known as "Pablo and the Puppet Punch"; it is a casual punching action game in 2D perspective. The game has three themes/ theatres "INDIAN", "ORIENTAL" and "EUROPEAN". In 2020, the Indian ecommerce major Flipkart announced its acquisition of the intellectual property (IP) of mobile gaming startup Mech-Mocha, the company behind the live-social gaming platform Hello Play. Flipkart took over 10-odd games that Mech-Mocha has developed over the past five years, including Ludo, Carrom, Snakes and Ladders, and Cricket.
  • University research to university spin-out: Manjeera Digital Systems Pvt. Ltd., started in 2014, incubated with University of Hyderabad4 and co-incubated with IIT, Hyderabad, is involved in the development of state-of-the-art processor architecture. They have patent applications pending in the following technologies:
    1. Middle stratum operation-based computing;
    2. True data plane architecture which provides very high performance at lower power consumption; and
    3. Low gate counts relative to existing technology

Their in-house technologies have applications in high-performance computing, consumer electronic devices, high end computer vision processing for auto infotainment, autonomous driving, remote sensing, surveillance and so on.

  • Using Trade secrets to stay on the competitive radar: Most startups are deficient in tangible assets, at least at the beginning of their business operations. Therefore, it is important for them to safeguard their data which serves as their primary asset. The said data may be collected over time investing innovative and technical skills. Such data can qualify for copyright protection. Startups which rely on their data, must ensure proper data protection is followed for privacy concerns.
  • Trademarks and commercial partnerships thereon: SWIGGY® trademark was registered early, when pre-filing searches indicated there were few third-party rights that might prevent its use. As the company grew and moved into the realm of collaborations and commercial partnerships, non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and trademark registrations were added to its IP estate. The largest food delivery platform in India, SWIGGY® is serving in 300+ cities. SWIGGY® now has strong brand recognition, and the company benefits from valuable goodwill in its name. SWIGGY® has partnered with the following companies to implement its business.

1. Burger King to provide delivery services.

2. Google Local Guide to facilitate customer reviews

3. Sodexo to enable customers for paying through meal cards.

4. Partnered with Indifi Technologies to facilitate a financing program for partner restaurants.

5. Launched a digital wallet, SWIGGY® Money, in partnership with ICICI Bank.

6. SWIGGY® and drone company ANRA Technologies have started with their trials for drone deliveries in India, as per a recent announcement.

Without trademark registration and damp-proof licensing arrangements, allowing a third party to apply your trademark to their goods would put you at risk of losing it. Trademark Registration typically protects a company's marks for 10 years, but with the advantage that they can be renewed from time to time.


IP protection helps in creating value and growth around the intangible assets through licensing, raising capital, pooling and paving way for acquisition. Without IP protection, rolling out new products or processes, or even disseminating new product ideas by startups/MSMEs are at huge risks. Therefore, it is of prime importance for a startup/ MSME to consult an IP attorney to identify novelty and industrial applicability of their technologies which will definitely be a 'golden wand' for a seamless IP strategy for successful revenue creation.






Originally Published 21 July 2021

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