Intellectual property 101 (and another reason to join our GFIdeas community)

Partners from leading international law firm McDermott Will & Emery joined this month’s GFIdeas call to give all the plant-based and clean meat entrepreneurs in attendance a crash course in IP. Here’s a taste of what we learned.
Intellectual property words over hands on a keyboard

Each month GFI’s innovation team hosts a virtual meeting for emerging entrepreneurs in the plant-based and clean meat industries to connect. We call it GFIdeas. You get it, right? 🙂

Innovators gather on this call to meet each other, ask questions, share resources, and learn about different topics from experienced industry experts. This month Roger Kuan and Jason Novak, partners at the law firm McDermott Will & Emery, dropped in to give everyone a crash course on intellectual property (IP) portfolio management—vital knowledge for any new startup.

McDermott Will & Emery is a leading international law firm with a dedicated Life Sciences Team. They offer a wide variety of legal services to life science companies, from early-stage startups to established companies, and take a cross-disciplinary approach to developing innovative, goal-oriented solutions.

This is all to say: Roger and Jason know their stuff. And we’re thrilled they shared some of that deep knowledge with our GFIdeas community. They started with a high-level IP 101 overview and then dug deeper into the nuances of the plant-based and clean meat industries. Here’s a small taste of what we learned:

  1. A company’s IP mix depends heavily on its business strategy. Brand-focused businesses (think: fashion, design, lifestyle) focus on trademarks, copyrights, and design patents. Product-focused businesses (think: pharma, biotech) focus on utility patents, copyrights, and trade secrets. (If this jargon is making your head spin, you can learn about these terms in the IP section of GFI’s new Startup Manual.) Different plant-based and clean meat companies will fall into different places on this spectrum, and their IP mix will likely reflect that.
  2. Plant-based and clean meat companies will likely seek out patents on specific unique aspects of their process. For example, novel culturing techniques, processing conditions, manufacturing equipment, and post-processing techniques are all potential areas where clean meat companies might carve out IP. GFI’s clean meat mind map provides a great overview of different areas where there is opportunity for innovation and differentiation.
  3. We can learn a lot from other industries. In the chewing gum industry (not the first place I would have looked for lessons on the plant-based and clean meat industries), patents have been pursued around all sorts of different ingredients and processing conditions—including, in one case, an underwater gum-cutting technique. Essentially, anything is fair game as long as you can prove that it’s sufficiently novel and inventive. 

Want to get full access to this presentation and future ones? Join the GFIdeas community!


The good food institute icon in white on a seaweed circle background

Brianna Cameron