News Clips

Feb. 8, 2021

Startups and Advocates Keep a Hopeful Eye on Biden’s Pick to Run the US Patent Office by Sam Blake

After seven years trying to make it as an entrepreneur, Josh Malone’s dreams and savings were running dry. With a growing family, urgency was mounting for his return to the safety and stability of corporate life. Desperate for a final crack, he asked his wife for patience and built one last prototype – a patented device that could quickly fill and tie multiple water balloons at once, which he called “Bunch O Balloons” – and started a Kickstarter campaign.

Malone raised nearly $1 million from 21,000 backers, and was invited on the national TV circuit, including a feature on the “Today Show.”

“That’s when it blew up,” he recalled.

Malone struck a big deal with Zuru, a Los Angeles-based toy company, to exclusively license his patent, and his invention soon lined retail shelves across the country.

But he quickly learned that his patent, which was supposed to grant him legal recourse to prevent others from exploiting his invention for 20 years, hadn’t deterred copycats, and that his ability to stop them wasn’t as ironclad as he’d expected.

Patents can be the lifeblood of a startup and their immediate future will be shaped by the next head of the U.S. Patent and Trade Office (USPTO), which receives over 600,000 patent applications a year and sets the tone for how the executive branch enforces patent rights. Once small-time players like Google and Intel used patents to shoot ahead in their industries, along with many other founders who’ve leveraged patents to help raise money and protect investors. If the company fails, they may be able to sell the patents off to others.