Our IP and how / when we enforce it

  • NFC Ring Team

    Hey guys, so over the last 4 years we have been filing IP to protect our ability to make our rings and ensure no other company can come in and stop us from creating smart rings.

    I feel like I want to explain our stance on IP (which is never a fun subject) so you know where we stand..

    First there is Trademark IP, such as "NFC Ring". We have had a lot of companies infringe on this and we're pretty strict about enforcing our trademark. It's pretty annoying when we see companies sell competitors rings as "NFC Rings", for example a big telco operator did this and this cost us tens of thousands of dollars in damages none of which we recovered. Trademark IP is relatively black and white at least, basically we own the term "NFC Ring" when used in a ring or technological product... Anyone else that uses it faces potential damages although 99.99999% of the time we have just asked them to right their wrong.. There has been a few instances of journalists thinking "NFC Ring" is a descriptive term (Think "hoover" or "escalator") and the problem is that we have to contact them and notify them of their error and then record that correspondence or we will lose the trademark. It's crazy but that's how the system works..

    Okay now moving to patents, which is way more gray. We have acquired and filed a nice selection of patents in the smart ring space. Being first to market obviously helped but also our collaborative approach of freely licensing our IP and striking IP deals that encourage creativity has meant that as competitors have shut doors their engineers and owners have happily joined our team and transferred IP ownership into McLear Ltd. With this IP (power) we have great responsibility and so when a company infringes the company owned IP we simplify notify them and ask them if they want to license our IP (most of the time it's freely as I'm sure a lot of our community members will vouch for or at a ridiculously [offensively] low cost..) Some of our notable patent licensees are Visa, Mastercard, Broadcom etc. These guys all license our IP for so little money it probably cost them more to sign the agreement. The goal here is to get company X to recognise our patent so that when we need to defend it against megacorp Y in the future we can say "Well companies [X(to the power of x)] recognise it".

    Every now and again a company comes along that infringes on our IP and refuses to collaborate and that's when we have to take some legal action just to ensure our IP stays valid and to ensure we can continue supporting creatives in the industry we worked so hard to develop.

    FWIW our total value on IP is in the Millions of USD so it would be negligent for any CEO to not protect this asset. Again to emphasise, the CEO's job is to protect our IP so that we can encourage creativity in the industry and not stifle innovation.

    For all of these things we have a clear policy at http://nfcring.com/patents and http://nfcring.com/trademarks/ -- The TLDR is we ALWAYS give the third parties an opportunity to right their wrong or collaborate with us. Legal action is always our last line of defense.

    Finally there is something I don't know what to call so I will refer to it as "chocolate tea pot".
    Say for example we work with company X to develop a new antenna and have an agreement with company X that we will fund the R&D and as such we own that IP. We then find out that company X has been selling our antenna design to a competitor (company Z). This is somewhat covered by patent law but is mostly protected by our agreement with company X. The way company Z got access to this was from an NDA breach (these things happen), company Z knows it's our IP but build a product around our R&D anyway... We don't have a set policy for "chocolate tea pot" issues yet, over the coming months we will. :)

    Ultimately our R&D will push smart rings forward so we're going to continue publishing as much as possible open source and continue sharing our learning's and inlays so others can build awesome smart rings to make everyone's finger even smarter. It sucks when the bits you want to keep private are leaked and it does make you a little more paranoid but at the end of the day 99.9% of the people we work with are awesome and do a great job and it's our job to continue supporting those people.

    // Some minor edits as I wrote this half asleep -_- Mods feel free to sanitize / clear some of this up because I'm sure a lot of it is hard to read...