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25 min read

What Solopreneurs Need to Know About Intellectual Property

What Solopreneurs Need to Know About Intellectual Property

Keegan CaldwellDr. Keegan Caldwell is a patent attorney and the founder and managing member of Caldwell Intellectual Property Law.  He founded the firm in 2016 and last year it was the fastest- growing law firm in the United States and has offices in Boston, MA, Santa Monica, CA, and London, UK. Keegan served in the US Marine Corps right after high school.  He holds a BS in Biomedical Science and a PhD in Physical Chemistry.  

Keegan has extensive and diverse experience with advising clients from innovation conception to 9 and 10 figure monetization events. Keegan works with start-ups and established entities to both develop patent portfolios and to monetize them.  He emphasizes the interaction between intellectual property and sound business practices to help his clients leverage their IP and create shareholder value. He has assisted clients with a broad spectrum of patent issues for a wide array of technology and takes pride in curating and enforcing high-value patent portfolios

What you'll learn in this episode

  • What is and isn't intellectual property
  • The difference between patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets
  • What solopreneurs need to think about when addressing intellectual property

Connect with Keegan Caldwell

Resources Mentioned in the Episode

**Mention you heard about Caldwell Intellectual Property Law on the show and receive 20% off a draft of a patent or trademark application.**

Favorite Quotes:

"Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm."

"If you want everyone to like you, don't be an entrepreneur. Go sell ice cream"

Want to share your experiences and learn from other one-person businesses? Be sure to join our community! It's free :)

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Full Episode Transcript

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (00:00):

This is a common pitfall that folks fall into, especially when they're just entering into the realm of intellectual property protection.

Intro (00:10):

Bigger, doesn't always mean better. Welcome to the One-Person Business podcast, where people who are flying solo in business, come for specific tips and advice to find success. As a company of one, here are your hosts Joe Rando and Carly Ries.

Joe Rando (00:28):

Hello, and welcome to the One-Person Business podcast. I'm one of your hosts, Joe Rando,

Carly Ries (00:34):

And I'm Carly Ries.

Joe Rando (00:36):

Today we're gonna talk to Dr. Keegan Caldwell, a patent attorney and the founder and managing member of Caldwell Intellectual Property Law. He founded the firm in 2016 and last year it was the fastest growing law firm in the United States. They have offices in Boston, Santa Monica, California, and London. Keegan served in the US Marine Corps right after high school and holds Bachelors of Science in Biomedical Science and a PhD in Physical Chemistry. He has an extensive and diverse experience with advising clients from innovation conception to nine and 10 figure monetization events. Keegan works with startups and established entities to both develop patent portfolios and to monetize them. He emphasizes the interaction between intellectual property and sound business practices to help his clients leverage their IP and create shareholder value. He has assisted clients with a broad spectrum of patent issues from a wide array of technologies, and he takes pride in "curating and enforcing high value patent portfolios". So Keegan, welcome to the One-Person Business podcast.

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (01:47):

Thank you so much for having me today. I really appreciate it. I'm excited to be here and, right off the bat, I feel like maybe we should have done my intro at the end cuz it can only go down from there. That's such a nice introduction. I imagine that I'll only be lowering expectations.

Joe Rando (02:07):

I humbly disagree, but let's go for it. This is an important topic for a lot of solopreneurs. One that people I think are a little afraid of because you think about patents and trademarks and blah, blah, blah, and all these different things. And it's just chaching, right? It's like dollars and people kind of wonder, is there anything for them there? So let's explore that. I'm going to start at the beginning by asking you what is intellectual property and what is not intellectual property.

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (02:40):

Sure. Happy to give at least my off the cuff definition of that. Then I'll give the more standard US PTO definition as well. Before I get started, because I am a lawyer, I need to give a little bit of a disclaimer that, none of what I'm about to offer is any sort of legal advice, nor should it be construed as legal advice. Now that we got that out of the way, what is intellectual property? Well, the way that I like to think about it and the analogy that I use regularly is that intellectual property's intangible. So unlike our house, which we can put a fence around to guard our property, and that we can even section off and sell off little bits of our property, intellectual property can't really be sectioned off like that.

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (03:26):

We can't really sell off little bits of it. It's intangible. So it's something that we can't touch or feel. It's these ideas that we have come up with. But like a house, the government has come up with processes for awarding certain protections around various areas of intellectual property, like trademarks, copyrights, patents, and trade secrets. I'll probably spend more time talking about patents today because it's an area that I specialize in and that I have the most experience in, but at our firm, we have people that focus on copyrights and trademarks as well. And, we do quite a bit of work in trade secrets. These protections that are offered by the government are usually for a set period of time. In the United States for patents, for instance, it's 20 years. For what' it is worth, there are some nuanced adjustments to that 20 year period that aren't really worth getting into today.

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (04:24):

Really, you're granted the right to exclude others for a period of 20 years. Back to kind of broadly thinking about intellectual property, ultimately with the government granting these protections. The goal of that at least is to incentivize folks to create intellectual property because they can benefit from protecting it and prevent others from copying it. We regularly think of protecting IP like putting a fence around property. This allows the holder of the IP to decide who can use the IP in what will be the price of the license. For instance, the price of entry, the price of coming into the gate of my property. If someone uses it or enters your land, in the example of a house, if someone came onto your property, you could either choose to let them hang out there, or you could say,

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (05:22):

Hey, listen, you need to get off my property. Or maybe you could even pay a fee for hanging out there. The same is true for intellectual property. You can use your awarded protections from the government, to choose to enforce against the folks that would be infringing or to go with the analogy I've been using, to enforce against the trespasser. Essentially, that is what intellectual property rights are. Intellectual property is an intangible thing that is granted by the government and the meets and bounds of which are established through the process of getting that protection through the government. The part that is a little bit more challenging to answer is what is not intellectual property. I think that's a little bit of a harder question to answer. What's tricky about it is because there are 144 different jurisdictions in the world, at least that I know of off the top of my head, and a lot of them have different definitions of what intellectual property is. Meaning that those intangible assets can vary beyond that, which I've just defined here and can include other categories other than trademarks, patents, copyrights, and trade secrets.

Joe Rando (06:39):

Very good. I just thought it was an interesting perspective to take and now I realize it was not really a great question. I mean, we learned something.

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (06:48):

It is a good question. It made me think about it. You think something over in advance and I was like, gosh, I don't even know how to exactly address this. The key thing is that there are just these intangible assets and they'll be a common theme as we go through and talk some more today. The key point is that they're a business asset to help us accomplish business objectives.

Joe Rando (07:08):

So can you explain the difference between patents, trademarks, copyrights, and you mentioned trade secrets? Can you give just a quick explanation about the differences between those things?

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (07:23):

I'd be happy to. I'll start with patents because that's what I know the most about. I can at least speak the most confidently about that. Then I'll do my best with the other categories. So a patent, for an invention, is the grant of a property right to an inventor. At least in the United States, that's granted by the United States patent and trademark office. As I already mentioned, there are all these other jurisdictions throughout the world that grant similar type rights. Generally a term of a new patent is about 20 years in the United States and that runs from the date on which the application for the patent was filed in the United States. There are nuanced circumstances where that's not the case. If you had filed an earlier application and they are somehow related, then they can share a filing date.

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (08:18):

But for the most part, and for sake of ease of understanding all the nuances of patent law on this podcast, we'll just stick with it. You're granted a monopoly on being able to exclude others for 20 years. I think that that's worth a little bit of attention here. Commonly in my job, folks make the mistake of thinking that if I get a patent on something, then that means that I can't get sued for some reason. I understand that in some way, that seems intuitive, right? If I have come up with this wonderful innovation, I'm going to apply for a patent at the United States patent trademark office or internationally and if I'm granted a patent, then I somehow have protection. You do have protection, but the protection that you have, is the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, selling or importing the invention.

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (09:28):

It doesn't mean that you can't get sued and that's a very common mistake. I personally work with folks that are solopreneurs to Fortune 500, Fortune 100 companies and it's commonly misunderstood. We talk about it colloquially, like we are somehow protecting ourselves by getting this patent. Somehow that means we're not going to get sued. There are some strategic protections that come with that, but by the law, by the way that the US PTO operates, it's that you have the right to exclude others, that's it. It doesn't mean that you can't get sued and commonly people do. Fortunately, what it means though, is maybe you have a countersuit with what your patent is. If someone is making such a similar product.

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (10:22):

I just wanted to point that out because I think it's very important to understand and, it's just so common that folks miss that. Getting back, it's granted, it's a property right given to an inventor and there are three types of patents mainly. There are utility patents, those are granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture or composition of matter or any new and useful improvement thereof. That's a lot of stuff. I'm not gonna get into all the different definitions of what a new or useful process is.

Joe Rando (11:07):

Yeah. definitely don't want grad school at this point.

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (11:11):

Exactly. It gets in depth and then there are a lot of case law that covers these things too, which is what people pay me for. Like articles of manufacturer, compositions of new matter in any new and useful improvements. So those are utility patents. Then there are design patents which may be granted to anyone who invents a new original ornamental design. So when we think about design patents, that's basically just like the aesthetic nature of something. If there's an airplane, for instance, the design of that aircraft, the way that it looks, not its functionality, but its ornamental design. Then there are plant patents. So you can get patents on plants. This is not talked about as commonly, at least. Maybe less intuitive that you could get something like this, but it's very true that you can get patents on plants and all the different varieties of plants. They may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant. The important piece on that one is that they asexually reproduce that.

Joe Rando (12:17):

Just curious on the ornamental, there are design patents, right? Can people patent a piece of art which would have to be some kind of functional utility item that then has a design element to it?

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (12:32):

No. You could get a patent on the design, as long as it was available to be patented. If it had not been patented by someone else.

Joe Rando (12:47):

Interesting. I did not know that.

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (12:49):

That could happen. Where it happens commonly though is usually like the example I gave of an airplane. Maybe you make an airplane that has a very unique design and you want it just like that. Or, iPhones are very common, and the back of an iPhone has the apple with a bite taken out of it. There are several different design patents on that. Just the way it looks. The same thing with a Mac book. The design patent is just on the aesthetic nature of it, not the actual functionality of it. If it's important to protect the design of something like an iPhone, for instance, then usually there are several other patents they have that are the utility patents that are related to that as well.

Joe Rando (13:45):

Makes sense.

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (13:47):

It's worth noting too that the design patents, and I don't know the exact term off the top of my head, but I think that design patents are only granted an 11 year term in the United States. It's not as long. It is generally much faster to get a design patent through at the patent office than it is to get a utility patent. Under the normal process of the patent office, in my experience, takes about three to five years. There are some other ways, you can pay the patent office a little extra money and, they have a handful of programs. A common one is called track one accelerated program. One that we use commonly with clients at our firm. That gives them a final disposition within 12 months. I think that can be very favorable, especially for companies that are just getting started. Then rather than getting a patent three to five years from now, you'd have the possibility of getting a patent within a year.

Joe Rando (14:47):

It can really help when you're fundraising. Obviously you'd be able to say you have the patent instead of "patent pending".

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (14:52):

Yeah. It's a big deal because to so many people to investors, whoever it is that you're pitching with this, it's so much more important to have those patent claims allowed. If you just say we applied for this patent, then, as an investor, you're thinking, well, I've seen a lot of people apply for a patent that don't get them. So once you have that in hand it can be such a useful marketing tool. My experience is also that the resistance in general, at the patent office doing the track one program, and we have statistical data to back this up, we get them quicker. Not only do we get them faster under this program, but we get them with less arguing with the patent office, which translates to being less expensive overall. You end up, even though you're paying them a little extra money to be on this track one program, you are on average doing less arguments with the patent office. And so, that ends up actually being cheaper, even though you're paying them a little bit more money

Joe Rando (15:51):

That makes sense. Now what about trademarks and copyrights? Where do those come down? I know it's not your thing.

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (16:01):

So trademarks is easy. That's protecting the brand of something. The One-Person Business podcast, for instance. Although I don't know if that would be trademarkable because I think it's descriptive and there are rules against trademarking things that are descriptive. It usually needs to be nonsensical, like Windex or something like that.

Joe Rando (16:28):

Like LifeStarr?

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (16:30):

Yeah, LifeStarr, exactly. A trademark is a word named symbol or device that is used in trade with goods to indicate the source of the goods and to distinguish them from the goods of others. When you apply for a trademark, if you were applying for one for Windex, for instance, there is probably some sort of category for household cleaner. So you apply for it and you get it in the class, you can pay for all these different classes. I don't know exactly how many there are, but there are a lot of classes, maybe 40 of them or more. You have to pay a certain amount of money, $250 or $275 per class at the patent office. And for each class, if you're granted the rights for in this example, the Windex mark, maybe they have one for household cleaners, but maybe you also want one for management consulting or something. Because you have the Windex management consulting firm, you could also apply for it in that category as well. What's interesting about that is you could have the SC Johnson folks that apply for the trademark for Windex in the household cleaners categories, if something like that existed and then maybe they only applied for the mark in that particular class, but there is a possibility that there could be some other company that might be a management consulting company that applies for the Windex mark in the management consulting class. They would also be granted and be able to use that because there wouldn't be any confusion. The likelihood of there being confusion that the SC Johnson folks and the Windex that is very commonly known to use to clean glass surfaces would not likely be confused with the management consulting Windex group.

Joe Rando (18:22):

Makes sense.

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (18:22):

It's to prevent people from riding coattail. So if tomorrow someone came out, they heard this amazing podcast and were like, oh wow, there's this great LifeStarr podcast. We should call ours Life's Star or something and throw on an s onto that. Then we'll apply for it in the same category that you guys did.

Joe Rando (18:41):

We'd hire you to go after them. <Laugh>

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (18:43):

Well, yeah, exactly. It would be confusingly similar. So it prevents those one offs. When I was a grad student, for instance, there was a website called I thought I was clever and I started this business called when I was in my PhD program. Nothing ever became of it and they never reached out to me because I don't think they ever felt particularly threatened by me. I was also a financial services website and had they have had a trademark or something on that, they could have definitely enforced against me because it was clear that it was confusingly similar when we both operated in the same realm of commerce. So that's trademarks. Hopefully that makes sense. Things like the golden arches at McDonald's, those are definitely, trademarked as well.

Joe Rando (19:34):

What about copyrights? I always think of books. Is that pretty much it? Or is there more to it?

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (19:42):

There is definitely more than just books. Copyrights are original works of authorship. So that could be literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works both published and unpublished. The 1976 copyright act generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to reproduce the copyrighted work, to prepare derivative works and to distribute copies or phono records of the copyrighted work to perform the copyrighted work publicly or to display the copyrighted work publicly, which is a long way of saying it gives you the similar sort of gated protection regarding the copyright that you applied for, the original work of authorship that you applied to get a copyright on. It's granting you some rights to protect against others utilizing.

Joe Rando (20:43):

I assume phonoworks, which was referring to phonograph albums back in the 1976 now refers to MP3s and streaming music and all that stuff.

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (20:54):

Exactly. This is where law is ever changing. As you can imagine, it takes a while for the law to catch up with technology. At the rate technology has been moving, especially over the last 20 years, it takes even longer for it to catch up. So that leaves a lot of unanswered questions. In general, we try to err on the side of caution and pursue protection and get as broad of protection as we can. Then as those laws evolve, sometimes that protection might be narrowed based on decisions that are made in the courts over the years. Things are constantly changing in the law and they're usually changing at a galatial pace.

Joe Rando (21:37):

So next question. What are the most important things that a solopreneur or freelancer specifically need to think about when addressing intellectual property?

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (21:46):

No doubt for me, the most important thing is that there has to be a business reason for doing what you're doing. If you're a solopreneur or freelancer, and you're thinking about getting IP protection, there are just so many pitfalls. I think a lot of times when we're getting started, and I've done all this myself too, where I have this great idea, I should get a patent on it. But what would be the purpose of me doing that? Am I going to create a business with it? Am I going to try to raise money with it?

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (22:25):

Am I going to use it as a marketing tool to help raise money or help bring in new perspective buyers of whatever product it is that I'm protecting? Does it help create a narrative for the sort of culture that I have at my company? Maybe I'm fixing some sort of environmental or social disparity. It just has to be purposed. I think all things that we do as an entrepreneur, need to be purposed. It's so important, especially at the solopreneur stage because we have like 10 bucks. But to get your business going, you need 50, so you have to figure out where are the priorities and where and how to spend these things.

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (23:11):

Sometimes IP might not make that list, sometimes it will. There has to be a reason. It has to help us achieve our business objectives, whatever that is. If you are helping to raise money for the company because we need it so that we can get some seed money or some angel money or a series A or B or whatever it is. If it's for creating the narrative that we're this disruptive tech company and that we have tech that's worth protecting then that could be part of it also. But there has to be some value delivered and I think it's all too common and it's one of the reasons I left and started my own firm was I felt we weren't treating it like a business asset. I wasn't taught to treat it as a business asset when I was learning my craft.

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (24:05):

That didn't make sense to me. It's so inordinate. It's very expensive to get intellectual property rights, whether it's a patent, trademark, whatever it is, it's gonna cost you anywhere from a couple of thousand bucks to the price of the new Mercedes. So there should absolutely be a good reason for making the decision to pursue those protections. It shouldn't just be, because I thought it was a cool idea or else you end up with another piece of paper on your desk that is not purposed.

Joe Rando (24:38):

It makes so much sense. Great point.

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (24:41):

When I started doing this job, I got on the phone and started asking what their invention was right away. Now it's literally the last question I ask. It's almost an afterthought because until I know what the business objectives are, what stage you're at, are you looking for funding, are you not looking for funding, Are you a SAS tool or do you have a medical device? Those are very different things. If you have a medical device, we need to file for a patent today. If it's some sort of SAS tool, well what is the usership?

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (25:23):

What are the amount of users on it? What is the amount of market adoption, do we think that other people are gonna do this thing that we're doing? If they're not, then what would be the purpose of us getting a patent? Now it's not to say there's no purpose at all, but if there's no market adoption, then the value of holding IP in it would be less than if there was broad market adoption. So maybe you can get away with not having to apply for any sort of patent protection, at least for quite a while when it comes to brand protection. Brand protection is a little bit cheaper. So those decisions out of the gate, I think are easier to make. If you have a client facing brand, if you have a customer facing brand or products that you're offering that are core to your business model or core to how you generate revenue, then it's a little bit of an easier decision to apply for trademark protection because it's considerably less expensive. Copyright protection, is also quite a bit less expensive, but in the realm of patents, it can be a very expensive thing to pursue.

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (26:30):

All of the things that we've mentioned should be treated as a business asset and they should help us accomplish our business objectives. If they don't do that, then we need to really question our own motives. Are we being emotional about it? Are we making a rational decision? I already brought up, money is always a big factor. Because money's always a big factor, you want to make sure you get as broad of protection as possible, whatever lawyer that it is you're working with, I think it's key that people pursue as broad of protection as possible.

Joe Rando (27:03):

Got it. So broad protection, meaning a patent that's more expansive or a trademark. Not just the image, but more of the actual name as opposed to just a particular picture, if you will. Is that what you mean by broader?

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (27:18):

Yeah. I think at least in the realm of patents we want to pursue. The rights that are granted in a patent are the claims. They're this number set of items at the end of a long description. What they call a detailed description, the patent application, there's this numbered set at the end. And these, if they're granted, are what is enforceable for you. In general you'd want these to be as broad as possible rather than too narrow. One of the challenges with applying for a patent, is anything that has happened before the date that you apply for a patent or that would be obvious, will be arguments that the U S PTO will make that you should not be granted a patent.

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (28:08):

I'm trying to think about the best way to do this. If you have some broader protection, if you had a very specific type of eyeglasses, for instance, that maybe the way that the curvature of the piece that goes around the ear was uniquely different and made of some material that was different or something like that, which you felt was novel and allowed you to pursue some patent protection, maybe you would want to try to get that on as many different types of materials as possible, instead of isolated to the one type of material you had originally conceptualized. Then you might run the risk of someone else creating a product that has that same design, but uses those materials that you did not call out in your patent.

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (29:13):

This is a common pitfall that folks fall into, especially when they're just entering into the realm of intellectual property protection. You end up working with a firm that is just taking whatever you say is your invention and putting it down on paper and filing forward at the patent office, instead of contemplating it as a business asset, and getting as much broad protection out of it as possible. That is what I mean, there are the most important factors I think in doing this is. Knowing that you want to get as broad protection as possible in working with someone that sees it as a business asset. I think that's crucial. Your patent attorney or your trademark attorney or copyright attorney, should be akin to your doctor. You should treat them as a professional that you really want. What's ideal for us at least is to create a relationship of trust where you can have over time and it's a collaborative relationship. You can rely on that person for solid advice. I think initially when you're starting at the forefront of that relationship, I would make sure that whomever folks are working with, that their council sees it as a business asset.

Joe Rando (30:52):

Very good. Here's a question, because this is something that really could happen. So, you're a One-Person Business, you have a patent and around that patent is some trade secrets, because sometimes you don't put everything that you're doing into the patent itself. Then they get approached by some great big company that's interested in buying them or their technology or licensing it or whatever, given that they have a patent, approved and in their pocket, should they feel safe divulging information to this company? Or should they continue to play it close to the vest?

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (31:27):

That's a great question. It's a tough question because I think it's a case by case basis. In general, those rights that you've applied for at the patent office, once that is applied for, you should be in good shape as long as you're not describing things outside the realm of that. But there's no reason for you to incur the liability or risk of sharing the invention even if it's covered by the patent that you've already filed. Maybe that gets the creative juices of the folks that you're sharing that information with going and they in turn contemplate several innovations that are related to, or that they wouldn't have thought of, had you not disclosed this to them.

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (32:19):

It's worth knowing that all those things could happen but I think in practical terms, when it really comes down to it, at least in my experience, if you need to go share this with a venture capital firm, because you're trying to convince them that they should give you money, most of the time, or a lot of the time, they're not going to want to sign any sort of NDA. They're going to want you to disclose at least a little bit about what it is that you have. Some people won't necessarily deep dive into your intellectual property portfolio, but they will want you probably to describe what it is that you think is your unique product offering. I think that's just a balancing of risk that we have to do sometimes.

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (33:07):

In an ideal world, we wouldn't have to share any of that, but in order to close those sort of deals, we have to put ourselves out there sometimes. In most cases, especially in the venture capital world. I mean they're listening to several pitches every day. So it's not an uncommon thing. Even for me, for instance, sometimes people will be, we want you to sign an NDA before we tell you about our invention. Well, listen, if I was to go share what someone was disclosing to me in confidentiality, I could potentially lose my right to practice law period. I don't, there's no need for an NDA. It would be redundant.

Joe Rando (33:48):

What about the companies? I've heard some horror stories from people I've known over the years.

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (33:56):

So have I

Joe Rando (33:57):

In terms of divulging, a small company or an individual divulges to some great big company, I won't name the one that was kind of pointed to as being one of the most egregious violators of this, and they would just basically steal it all, run with it and say, "Sue us". They were so big that there was no way this little person was gonna ever get through the legal process to get what was rightfully theirs.

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (34:23):

I think the long answer to this question starts to get into some broader policy issues regarding patent law. Some folks argue that the advantage that large companies have is too great and that the patent system, as it is, does not currently support the smaller entrepreneur as much as it should. There have been some adjustments that were made to it in 2013, 2014 that were supposed to help absolve some of this problem. I think the intent was there, but in practice that didn't help as much as it should have. Back to what you're saying, certainly these things do happen and we should be careful. I think it comes back to the question of "what's the business reason that I'm doing something". If we were going to go sit down with company X, Y, Z, large conglomerate X, Y, Z, to discuss some collaborative relationship, maybe we're talking with their venture arm to get some sort of money from the venture arm of a large company.

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (35:30):

Maybe we're looking for some sort of public partnership because we have a product that might enhance their rights. Maybe some sort of security based software or something that we've developed that could be useful for them. I think whatever the situation is, I would approach it just like we've talked about before. We have to consider the business purpose of what it is that we're doing and then weigh what the options are. When we hear those nightmare stories, I think usually what happens, is someone is disclosing a lot of information without any sort of contractual promises. Then leaving them little room for recourse when in a situation like that you have to gauge, am I at the stage where it's okay for me to disclose? Or, I think what happens commonly is that people get so excited, they get this meeting with this really exciting tech company with some people and they think, this is our big break.

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (36:37):

But maybe it's just the first of 30 conversations that I need to have before something real happens with this company. So we go into that first meeting and show our whole hand. I'd advise to keep things as close to the vest, as long as possible until there's some sort of bargain to be made or exchange of value that is discussed. Maybe there's some sort of contractual obligations that are discussed. But wait until you know that there's a real relationship on the table, instead of just throwing it all out there.

Joe Rando (37:07):

That makes so much sense. That's such great advice. Thank you. So we're coming to the end here, but do you have any resources you think would be helpful to people going alone in business? Websites, books or whatever?

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (37:25):

I think especially in the realm of solopreneurs and freelancers, people that are just getting started or contemplating jumping from whatever company that they're working for now and trying to make it on their own, again, getting back to oftentimes we only have so many financial resources and sometimes that means we don't have enough financial resources to maybe even hire a law firm to do that. There's an Inventor Assistance Center at the US PTO. Just Google inventor assistance center, US PTO or United States patent and trademark office. There are a slew of resources that'll pop up including what they call the pro se assistance center. Filing pro se is when you file by yourself as the entrepreneur, without the help of a legal professional, a patent agent or patent attorney. They have a great program for helping folks in that position.

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (38:31):

I think in the end that you don't receive the sort of protection that you would end up getting if you were to hire professional because the patent law is so nuanced. But if you're so strapped that you don't have the resources to do anything, and this is the only option you have to try to file something for yourself, they treat solopreneurs and people that file pros se, very nice at the patent office. They want to help you.

Joe Rando (39:02):

Awesome. That's a great resource. We'll try to get those in the show notes too. Links to those.

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (39:06):

There are a couple of other things too. There is another guy, Steven Key. Steven is a writer for Forbes and Entrepreneur and the founder of Steven Key Media. He has a lot of programs to help entrepreneurs patent and license their products. His website is I'm not affiliated with this person nor am I promoting them, but I just think that they have good resources. If you poke around too, honestly, there are a handful of law firms. One of them, Cooley, is a firm that has worked in tech and that I believe has an excellent reputation. They have a smaller branch of their firm called and they do have some excellent resources for folks to just download on their own without getting any sort of legal advice. A great website for things to read through.

Joe Rando (40:11):


Dr. Keegan Caldwell (40:12):

That's The other thing I would say is . That certainly gets into the realm of probably things that are boring for most people but that are interesting for me, for IP professionals. But if you feel like poking around, IPwatchdog is , I would say, that preeminent intellectual property blog today.

Joe Rando (40:39):

Very good. That's great. Now a question that we ask all of our guests, "what is your favorite quote about success? "

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (40:49):

I have a couple. I feel like that's cheating, but

Joe Rando (40:53):

It's okay.

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (40:54):

<laugh> yeah. I want to rattle off a couple. I think that this is a great one. "Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." I think that as it's written, maybe seems a little bit harsh. Because my perspective, it's like the failure just doesn't feel like failure. It's okay that we didn't work now. I'm gonna go onto the next way. I think once we get humble enough to not let our ego get hurt or let our ego even be involved, then we can really start to be less emotionally attached to things and we can methodically approach, problem solving. So I love that one. The other one I'm thinking of off the top of my head, but it's, "If you want everyone to like you, don't be an entrepreneur, go sell ice cream" or something like that. <laugh> and that''s a Steve jobs quote then I'm probably botching cause I'm doing off the top of my head, but I think that's absolutely true. And then I'd like to just say too, thanks to you guys for having me on. I don't get invited to be on a lot of different podcasts, but I was excited to jump at the opportunity to be on the One-Person Business podcast. Again, because I have so much excitement about working with entrepreneurs and just as a thank you to you guys, I'd like to offer the listeners of this, if they mention that they heard on this podcast, when they give us a buzz that they need some help with IP, we'd like to offer them 20% off a draft of a patent or trademark application.

Joe Rando (42:34):


Carly Ries (42:35):

That is unbelievable.

Joe Rando (42:37):

I think that's the best deal we've ever gotten for our listeners. Carly

Carly Ries (42:41):

<laugh> I know,

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (42:43):

Maybe I'll regret it later.

Carly Ries (42:44):

No, You heard it here first. It is set in stone.

Joe Rando (42:51):

Keegan. Thanks so much for coming on today. This was really great. This is the kind of information that people can't get that easily. You really laid it all out there for our listeners. I appreciate it very much and hope you have a great rest of your day. Hopefully maybe we can do this again soon.

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (43:11):

I'd love to. Thanks so much. It was great to chat with you today. Happy new year and I can't wait to see what happens this year.

Joe Rando (43:18):

Very good. Take care.

Dr. Keegan Caldwell (43:21):

Okay. Take care guys.

Closing (43:22):

You may be going solo in business, but that doesn't mean you're alone. In fact, millions of people are in your shoes, running a One-Person Business and figuring it out as they go. So why not connect with them and learn from each other's successes and failures at LifeStarr, we're creating a One-Person Business community where you can go to meet and get advice from other solopreneurs. Be sure to join in on the conversation at