According to the University of Cambridge, Cambridge is Europe’s largest technology cluster. Within the aptly-name “Cambridge Cluster” or “Silicon Fen” are more than 4,700 knowledge intensive firms with a combined revenue of over AU$21 billion per annum . With nearly sixteen unicorns (companies attaining a valuation over a billion USD), and a publication rate of close to 350 patent applications per 100,000 residents – the Cambridge Cluster has truly earned its reputation as the most innovative hub in Europe.

Determined to work not only with but also as part of some of the world’s best innovators, we will have an innofyer-in-residence at the University of Cambridge for the next year – Dr Katherine Rock. At innofy – we want to be part of the future world that is being built and integrate with the most innovative start-ups and companies. As well as collaborating with the front-runners in the legal-tech space, Katherine has also been welcomed to take part in further study at the University of Cambridge – to build even stronger foundations for Innofy and thereby finding innovative ways to move the intellectual property industry forward. Unlike many traditional IP firms, we do not see time spent on further education as conflicting with organisational interests and billable hour targets. Capacity building and innovation is at the heart of what we do – to ensure that all of our clients receive the best IP advice at the best value!

Over the next twelve months, we will relay innovative insights straight from Silicon Fen – related to Intellectual Property, entrepreneurship, and commercialisation – via our Innovation Series on this blog.

In this initial post, we look at a case study involving an exciting cyber security start-up out of Cambridge… including strategic lessons we can learn from their patent portfolio.

Innovation Insights

Throughout Katherine’s secondment, we will relay on our News Feed innovative insights straight from Silicon Fen. This “Innovation Series” will provide regular posts reporting on the cutting-edge of Intellectual Property, entrepreneurship, and commercialisation. Not to be missed by anyone seriously looking to innovate on a national or global scale!

In this first post, we take a look at a case study involving an exciting cyber security start-up out of Cambridge. What strategic lessons can be learnt from how they used their patent portfolio to further their commercial goals?

y) which define the legal scope of protection is unlikely to be ascertained for some time. This may be beneficial for Darktrace as, whilst patent rights cannot be enforced until granted, uncertainty around the potential scope of protection could reduce the risk of competitors being able to successfully develop work-arounds.

Case Study: Darktrace Limited and Patent Filings

Darktrace: a potential unicorn-in-waiting. Innovation commentators believe Darktrace is poised to become not only the next Cambridge company to achieve a billion-dollar valuation. In doing so Darktrace will likely become fastest Cambridge company to attain unicorn status. Founded in Cambridge in 2013, Darktrace provides “the world’s first operational Enterprise Immune System… [providing] the ability to detect emerging cyber-threats, [and]… to proactively defend against in-progress cyber-attacks.”

A search for published US patent applications (applicant: Darktrace) reveals only three pending US applications at this stage::

  • 20170230392 ANOMALY ALERT SYSTEM FOR CYBER THREAT DETECTION
  • 20170230391 CYBER SECURITY
  • 20170220801 CYBER SECURITY

(No Australian published applications were found.)

The first two US applications are convention applications claiming priority from provisional applications filed in Britain in early 2016. The latter is a national phase entry from an international PCT application (publication WO2016020660) claiming priority to a British application filed in early 2014.

What does this tell us about Darktrace’s patent strategy?

The answer is… not much (yet!). There could be a number of reasons for the low number filings. For example, given the youth of the company, and the relatively recent filing dates of the published applications, it is possible that more published applications will surface in the coming years – bearing in mind that applications are typically published 18 months from the priority date.

Moreover, in a field such as cyber security, there may be advantages in maintaining some IP as trade secrets – particularly if it is not easy to reverse engineer. In situations were maintaining confidentiality is a plausible option, this is often a more effective strategy than patent filings (as well as avoiding significant costs!). Advantageously, maintaining a trade secret can provide an enduring monopoly (think recipe for Coca-cola) rather than the 20-year monopoly provided by patent protection (not to mention the compulsory public disclosure in the form of publication).

On a final note, it is worth mentioning that the above published applications are unlikely to undergo examination in the US for a number of years. Therefore, the scope of the granted claims (if any) which define the legal scope of protection is unlikely to be ascertained for some time. This may be beneficial for Darktrace as, whilst patent rights cannot be enforced until granted, the uncertainty around the potential scope of protection could limit the ability of competitors being able to successfully develop work-arounds.

Watch this space…

For more insights hot of the press from The Cambridge Cluster- stay tuned for the next edition of the Cambridge Innovation Series.