Intellectual Property solutions for Fintech Startups and Inventions
Snr. Associate | Attorney
The co-founder and CEO of Square Inc, Jack Dorsey, will be a keynote speaker at the 5th annual Africa Fintech Summit to be held virtually from 9 to 12 November. It is a significant nod to the importance that Africa’s tech entrepreneurs are playing in the development and innovation of Fintech worldwide. For one thing, Africa’s banks and financial service providers tend to be better at embracing collaboration with Fintech start-ups as a means of retaining and acquiring new customers.
With the imminent advent of the multi-sectoral open platform, OpenX, the editor of the World Fintech Report, Anirban Bose, stressed that Fintech entrepreneurs are no longer simply disruptors, they have matured to become respected, global players with robust acquisition rates and profitability potential. It is therefore up to the incumbent to decide whether to consider Fintech inventors formidable competitors or enabling allies.
A large portion of fintech start-ups in Africa focus on payment and money transfer services, as well as investment, crowdfunding, blockchain and bitcoin and retail banking services. More recently, there has been a surge of interest and investment in Accountech and Regtech start-ups. Accountech tools and platforms focus on improving efficiencies for accounting and finance professionals as well as advanced technologies that enable firms to shift their focus to value-added advisory services. Regtech technologies, on the other hand, facilitate the delivery of regulatory requirements and help businesses meet the challenges of regulatory monitoring, reporting, compliance, risk management and fraud detection.
The case for fintech, accountech and regtech is therefore irrefutable. So how do you develop a strategy for protecting and commercialising your fintech inventions and brands?
Fintech laws are still in their infancy, but there are some regulations that govern the transfer of funds, data privacy and cyber security. Intellectual property rights are the most obvious consideration for tech entrepreneurs who should clearly define and protect their IP with registrations and documentation, especially when working with multiple third parties.
Do you have an invention or idea that you think needs protecting?
This helps them control use of their IP rights, including permitted use under licensing and collaborative arrangements. Rights and tools available include copyright, trademark and patent protection.
Copyright automatically subsists in computer code, visual interface features, audio, video guides, application programming interface (API) structure and other works. This could include your source code, pseudo code, machine code and purpose-built hardware or firmware. Copyright is a vital intellectual property asset for a Fintech company, particularly if the program design provides computational and usability efficiencies. Fintech entrepreneurs should be careful when it comes to developers who incorporate third-party copyright, as it may impact ownership of the technology and freedom to operate.
A patent provides a means to exclude others from making, using or selling your patented technology and this is helpful in obtaining or maintaining market share, protecting research and development, and raising the value of your product if you are looking for venture capital or investment. The most important ingredient for a successful patent is the concept of novelty – your invention must be new. If you have been working on a potentially patentable invention, it is imperative to keep it secret until your patent application has actually been filed.
Any mark that distinguishes your brand such as a word mark, logo or icon can be protected by registering it as a trademark. A brand or trademark distinguishes your service offering from others, helping to build you reputation and goodwill.
There are a great many other considerations when it comes to developing an Intellectual Property strategy for your fintech invention or start-up, including industrial designs, trade secrets and commercialisation & licensing.
Our IP attorneys will be able to review your products, processes and invention, then set out an IP roadmap for you, including the all-important non-disclosure agreements (NDA).