provisional patent

Can you foster growth with a Intellectual Property strategy? Yes you can.

 

provisional patent

KimboCare has obtained a “provisional patent” for its novel “Health Credits” concept, hitting a major milestone on our growth strategy. Deciding what to patent and timing to file, was confusing and somewhat daunting, until we understood why we had to. In this article, we’re sharing our own journey with the hope it helps fellow founders out there, navigate the way towards protecting their inventions.

Taking a step back. What is Intellectual Property (IP)?

IP is defined as the exclusionary rights given to authors, investors and businesses, which protect their literary and artistic works or authorship, useful and ornamental inventions and valuable information against awful use, sale or copy by a third party.

Each company owns data, ideas, inventions or works that have value, such as their list of customers, software, an innovative product or their trademark, and which can therefore be protected by IP rights.

There are four major types of IP:

1. Trade secrets, or confidential information

2. Trademarks

3. Copyrights

4. Patents

All inventions generally start with an inventor’s trade secret, and typically require additional IP protection as they become public. Unfortunately, too many early stage startups tend to prioritize relatively temporary operational challenges (e.g., limited demand for product, absence of skilled labor, access to fundraising, etc.), and neglect filing for IP rights, which leaves their inventions at the mercy of the competition.

How to use IP rights to protect your business?

To effectively protect their ideas, entrepreneurs need to use at least one of the four major types of IP. Each serves a different purpose and, when combined, they constitute a more robust and well-rounded protection, depending on the startup’s objectives. Take a can of Coca-Cola®, for example. The brand, “Coca-Cola” is a trademark. The formula for the actual soda is a trade secret, while copyright law protects the packaging art. Both a design patent and a trademark (i.e., trade dress) can protect the shape of the Coca-Cola® bottle.

Startups need to address select key questions to lay out a winning IP strategy:

  • What is the company trying to accomplish? What is the business goal?
  • Which IP tools are appropriate to deliver on business goals — a trade secret, trademark, copyright, patent — and why?
  • Do we need a patent? How long can we protect our idea without it?

Once the strategy is defined, the company has to acquire and exploit the chosen IP protection to maximize value. Well beyond a litigation instrument, startups can leverage IP rights as new, enduring revenue streams (e.g., licensing).

What about patents?

According to Investopedia, a patent is “a government license that gives the holder exclusive rights to a process, design or new invention for a designated period of time.” Patents allow the startup to prevent competitors from using their technology, which is a feature that can grant unique advantages in the marketplace. Patents in the U.S. are usually granted for a period of 20 years.

Patents are often regarded as the IP type with the highest value, but they also tend to be expensive. They are complex documents and require substantial investment of both time and resources. Startups are likely to hire specialized patent expertise and legal counsel to develop patent documents, and will go through a lengthy examination process with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) to secure first the provisional patent, and then the final patent. Several sources, including the USPTO, have reported that a basic patent filing can take anywhere from 2.5 to 5 years to complete.

So, should early-stage startups file for a patent?

Patent filing is one of the most controversial topics discussed out there. Very reputable sources recommend against it, while others, just as reputable, insist it’s a necessity. When it comes to our own experience with KimboCare, we did not file right away. Why?

  • With scarce resources, we had to prioritize spending on starting up operations.
  • We had an idea, but we had yet to engage all the relevant expertise to test, design and refine our concept and we knew that we still had to learn a lot from this experience.
  • We had to launch the service and test it with real customers, where we also gained invaluable feedback.

As Paul Graham, venture capitalist and co-founder of Y Combinator, notes, about 70–100% of new start-ups have a different core idea at the heart of their business by the end of the first 3 months of operation. It is in the execution of your idea that you achieve true, fit-for-purpose innovation, one that actually may sell and generate profits.

A few months on from our pilot launch in Africa, we realized we were in that sweet spot. Our sales had begun to pick up, with customers increasingly embracing KimboCare and our value proposition. Additionally, competitors had begun to follow our lead and alter their business models to mimic ours — unfortunate, but it reinforced the value we brought to the market. We also had a forward-looking approach; we saw in the patent a powerful asset to help de-risk our business and retain overall value.

KimboCare has now obtained a “provisional patent” for its novel “Health Credits” concept. Our health credits are “tokens” that allow secure and expedited access to healthcare services via a fully digitized transparent process; a game changer in enabling healthcare access for financially underserved populations. Want to learn more, or give our “health credits” a try? Go to www.kimbocare.com!

We want to hear about your experience protecting your inventions. Chat with us below, or share this article with others in your circle who may benefit from it!

By Murielle TiamboFranck TiamboMarie-Francoise Mbaye and Martin Ciupa


Africa COVID-19 challenge

One size fits all? The Africa COVID-19 challenge

Africa COVID-19 challenge

First published on April 14, 2020

With every corner of the world now impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, we can’t help but think about the effects on the poorer regions. African countries are struggling to control the COVID-19 outbreak in the face of higher rates of poverty and insufficient healthcare infrastructure.  Nearly half of Africans don’t have access to clean water and two-thirds lack access to sewage infrastructure, making measures such as washing hands and keeping surfaces clean simply not practical for too many people. In addition, many African countries experience significant shortages of trained healthcare workers. For example, Ivory Coast gears up for this crisis, with one of the lowest ratios of doctors per capita; the World Bank estimated only about 30 physicians per 100,000 people. Moreover, estimates report that Kenya only has less than 200 intensive care unit beds to serve a population of 50 million people.

Specialists recognize that small and informal businesses in Africa will be hit particularly hard, especially in urban areas, making lockdown initiatives even harder to implement and enforce. Experts stress the importance of timing and reiterate how devastating the next few weeks and months will be if we fail to act quickly and decisively, and in ways that work for Africa. As governments strive to balance healthcare access and economic preservation with limited resources, it’s clear that the private sector needs to embrace agility and step up.

KimboCare, a growing health-tech startup, is ahead of the game with its novel ‘health credits’ concept, which allows Africans to fund access to high-quality local care for their loved ones. The COVID-19 crisis in Africa has prompted us to expedite our growth timeline and expand services to help more people. Our network of pre-vetted, credible Africa-based care clinics is a lifesaving resource, and we’re putting it into action.

Users can now send free health credits to relatives and friends in Africa for COVID-19 related care. The COVID-19 health credits are available at absolutely no cost for the giver or receiver, and can be accessed immediately through the KimboCare website for a remote, carefully designed COVID-19 self-assessment and, as necessary, a scheduled appointment at one of our approved local clinics. Now, more than ever, access to credible health information and sound medical care is critical, especially for aging parents or those with chronic medical conditions. At KimboCare, we feel privileged to offer such access to communities in developing regions in a manner that adheres to social distancing requirements, minimizes transmission and keeps people safe.

All around the world, startups and innovative thinkers are stepping up to introduce out-of-the-box solutions. In many cases, businesses are forced to change and adapt overnight. At KimboCare, we have not hesitated to respond present, creating new offerings and launching COVID-19 prevention campaigns, and we will continue to be on the forefront of this health crisis for financially underserved communities. Needless to say, we are proud to lead this movement for the African people.

African populations have unique strengths, and it’s important to approach these challenging times with a sense of optimism. We are creative, resilient, and very young, especially compared to European countries that have seen the most COVID-19-related deaths. As a result of the ongoing crisis, Africans have the opportunity to leverage local talent and produce much-needed items at an affordable cost, including masks, disinfectant, and protective gear. COVID-19 prevention campaigns must be tailored to match local cultures and the traditions of African communities. Government mandates will only be successful when paired with well-rounded, custom-built campaigns that effectively teach protective hygiene rules.

COVID-19 presents an unprecedented threat to African communities, but also the opportunity for us to work together to promote real change. Talking about this disruptive crisis on social media is good, but talking is only the first step to stability. Now, it’s time to act. KimboCare stands out as more than just a digital startup with dreams of a sustainably empowered Africa; we are building real-world solutions to win over this pandemic and beyond.

Governments need to show more compassionate leadership throughout this crisis, steering away from cookie-cutter measures and focusing on context-based solutions for the wellbeing of African people. As individuals, we also have an important role to play, moving from reaction to action, to flatten the curve.

By Murielle Tiambo and Franck TiamboKimboCare Enthusiasts


Man on a bike

Africa’s “new normal” is in the hands of its private sector

Man on a bike
By Hennie Stander

First published on June 1, 2020

The entire world has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The effect of COVID-19 pandemic on Africa is yet to unfold, and could be dreadful. Many developing nations are not well positioned to control the outbreak. Issues like food insecurity and lack of drinking water compound the problem.

In the first article of our KimboCare’s COVID-19 series, we noted the importance of afro-centric solutions and the critical role of the private sector in fighting this crisis. Here at KimboCare our number one priority is to empower and enable underserved nations to grow economically and socially. In this article, we want to acknowledge private initiatives, taking novel steps to enable African countries to fight the pandemic and reduce the long-term devastation of COVID-19.

Just How Challenging Is the Situation?

According to Forbes, Africa has not seen the number of COVID-19 deaths as other more developed nations. However, that may change, and when it does, it will create severe problems for countries that already lack resources. As of early May, COVID-19 spread to more than 30 African countries, and the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that Africa could see close to 200,000 deaths over the next year if the pandemic is not contained. It is hard to say where each country truly stands in terms of infection rates and deaths, given significantly low levels of tests available per capita. For example, Senegal, a country that has led efforts to produce $1 more affordable testing kits, has only about 1.6 tests available per 1000 people, compared to 32 in the United States.

Africa faces a few more key challenges related to COVID-19. The first problem is a shortage of essential personal protective equipment or PPEForbes estimates that Africa will need as many as 500,000 ventilators to deal with the crisis. Unfortunately, it is difficult to ascertain how many ventilators some of the countries in Africa have on hand. According to Reuters, the entire continent averages less than one ventilator per 100,000 people. Many nations have far fewer than that. For instance, when asked by reporters, Central African Republic’s Health Minister Pierre Somse said that they have only three ventilators on hand. Many of these nations don’t have the budgets needed to purchase more ventilators. Furthermore, it is nearly impossible for the existing supply chain to meet the demand that will be required.

The second issue is that the coronavirus pandemic could very well lead to an increase in the number of deaths from chronic problems like HIV. According to WHO, a six-month disruption in antiretroviral therapy due to COVID-19 could lead to nearly a half a million more deaths in sub-Saharan Africa.

A third issue is that interruptions in the supply chain will likely make food insecurity issues even worse. The number of people at risk of starvation in developing nations is currently 135 million. However, experts expect that number to double to 265 million after COVID-19. There are several reasons for this. The pandemic results in funding cuts to programs that provide aid. Additionally, restrictions on agriculture that stem from sick workers and social distancing rules limit the amount of food produced.

All of these problems may lead to the weakening of the continent on a vast scale, which is the very thing that we are fighting against at KimboCare. The situation becomes even more concerning, as governments begin to ease restrictions to alleviate economic pain on households and prevent substantial slowdown. The risk of a second round of lockdown is real, should return to “new normal” not be smart and intelligently orchestrated.

What Is Being Done?

The good news is that private companies are increasingly stepping up to help. For example, software developers Trixta developed an app to track COVID-19 data in real-time. This app allows doctors and hospitals in Africa to follow cases in real-time, and helps hospitals and clinics to better plan how to use limited supplies, such as ventilators and hospital beds.

Another company that has stepped up to help is Associated Electric Cooperative Inc. (AECI) in South Africa, one of the nations most impacted by the coronavirus. WHO has praised this country for managing to curb the spread of COVID-19. AECI was one of the first private companies to step up; they donated more than 1.9 million Rands. The country has used the money for medical staff in hospitals, hand-washing stations at clinics, hand sanitizer for vulnerable communities, and more.

With countless private sector led initiatives continuously popping up across African countries to combat the outbreak, from educational health campaigns to protection gear production to affordable testing kits or to case tracking apps as mentioned above, the crisis is unveiling Africa’s tremendous potential for sustainable growth and economic independence.

What Now?

Now is Africa impacted as much as we expected? It is hard to tell. Numbers of reported COVID-19 cases are going up in several countries, but the continent appears to benefit from several factors including: proven experience fighting catastrophic epidemics, higher temperatures potentially inhibiting longevity of the virus in the air, and population largely hitting outside covid-19 vulnerable demographics with 62 years life expectancy and 20 years median age. As Quartz Africa notesAfrica is resilient.

Governments, corporations and individuals have the opportunity to rethink engagement and collaboration norms to allow all parties to contribute a meaningful part to Africa’s journey into the “new normal”. More than ever, the continent needs help from its private sector to achieve post-pandemic recovery and beyond.

Do you know someone who would benefit from reading this article? Do you have other insights or views? Share it on social media now.

By Murielle Tiambo and Franck TiamboKimboCare Enthusiasts