Avoiding the IP Darwin Award: IP Strategies for the Startup

May 10, 2004

A practical guide to surviving the natural selection process as a technology startup. Discussed are strategies, and mistakes to avoid, when applying scarce resources to the development and protection of intellectual property assets.

Natural Selection Theory Applied to Startups

In 1859 Charles Darwin revived the theory of evolution in The Origin of Species, which presented evidence that species evolve over time to fit their environments better.  Darwin called his mechanism for evolution "natural selection." Fast-forwarding to today, a tradition has developed on the Internet known as the "Darwin Awards" that applies natural selection theory to human behavior by commemorating individuals who contribute to the improvement of our gene pool by removing themselves from it in idiotic ways.   Annually, candidates are considered that exhibit astounding misapplication of judgment, resulting in their own demise.   Through a well-developed set of rules and vetting process, the Darwin Awards are then bestowed to the wildest examples and published as a sort of mock celebration of the subject’s self-removal of incompetent genetic material from the human race.  Example winners include:

  • A man smashed by the anvil he rigged above his balcony to kill those squawking pigeons.

  • An executive who fell from a high rise building when he shoulder-butted a floor-to-ceiling plate glass window to demonstrate its safety to his acrophobic secretary.

  • A tourist gored to death during the "Running of the Bulls" while riding naked in a shopping cart piloted by his drunken friend.

In the technology business world, there is a natural selection process as well that applies to the startup (i.e., pre-revenue or profit) company.  To emerge from the primordial ooze to a position of sustainability in the marketplace, a startup is best served by avoiding the condition of "rusty chromosomes" when it comes to dealing with intellectual property issues.

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