The digital revolution has permeated into nearly every industry, and Fintech is no exception. Fintech heralds many changes with its new services, business models and suppliers, which leads to the creation of new market opportunities and a competitive advantage over more traditional models. This has implications not only for large financial institutions, insurance companies, technological companies and consortiums, but also for start-ups. Companies may use such technologies as distributed ledgers, blockchain, cryptography and automation to provide services that would otherwise be impossible to render.
Intellectual property for Fintech
Both vastly experienced financial institutions and newly formed start-ups are currently competing and cooperating with one another in order to develop and implement Fintech products and services. Businesses of this nature should constantly monitor what is being made in their organization in order to protect their intellectual property. This is particularly important when cooperating with multiple third parties. Below is an overview of products which may contribute to the growth of a company and which should be constantly overseen by R&D managers in order to improve strategies for their protection.
Patents provide a mechanism for excluding other businesses from creating, using and selling patented technologies. This allows businesses to gain or maintain market share and protect the investments made into research and development. Patents ensure a competitive advantage and are used as a tool in negotiations.
Each development strategy should take into account whether patent protection is available for innovations in basic technologies. Competitors may have their own patents or be undergoing patent proceedings (in such cases we suggest carrying out a patent search). Obtaining patent protection is a lengthy and costly process in comparison with other intellectual property rights. However, there are international agreements which allow postponing expenses but guarantee early commencement of protection for important innovations. Considering Fintech’s rapid pace of development, obtaining early protection is crucial due to the nature of the patent system, in which the date of filing the application has great significance.
Copyright is an important instrument for protecting intellectual property for Fintech businesses, particularly when the proposed program ensures high computing performance and utility. Copyright protects the program’s code, visual interface features, audio and video guides, application programming interface (API) and similar R&D solutions. Companies in the Fintech sector should provide suitable protection for programmers’ work as they may inadvertently and without permission use third parties’ source codes in their work, which may have an adverse effect on the ownership of the technology and the organization’s freedom to operate.
Fintech companies are strongly advised to invest in the reputation of their trade marks, as they ensure high quality of customer service. A strong trade mark allows Fintech companies to set their product apart from their competitors’ products. Bearing in mind that Fintech companies often manage financial assets of crucial importance, a recognizable trademark (brand) may be particularly important for their clients.
Trade secrets do not require formal registration, but companies must take adequate measures to keep them in confidence. The advantage of this form of protection is that it guarantees indefinite protection of secret information as long as sufficient confidentiality measures are in place.
Industrial designs may be used to protect the “appearance and operation” of physical items such as electronic cards, transaction devices, computer interfaces and icons. Industrial design protection may be a valuable asset, particularly if a particular feature helps to promote the distinctiveness of the trade mark, products or service or increases the utility of a product.
Due to the complexity of Fintech products and services, designing an optimal intellectual property protection strategy can also be complex. The most important thing for companies to do is to define and try to adequately protect their intellectual property.