Tips for Small Technology Business Owners Considering a Strategic Alliance

Posted by on September 11, 2008 in Business Management, Business Start Up Advice, Legal Matters for Business, Patents and Trademarks [ 0 Comments ]

In the first blog installment of this series, we discussed strategic alliances, why small technology companies should seriously consider entering into a strategic alliance with other companies, and provided factors that a business owner of a small technology company should consider in determining which proprietary technology should be made available for licensing under the strategic alliance. Once you, as the business owner, have identified proprietary technology for licensing, what additional steps should you consider in identifying a strategic alliance partner to develop, market and distribute products based on your technology?

In this second blog, we discuss how you can find strategic alliance partners and why these partners should be further qualified.

Tip – Identify and qualify your potential licensees.

Do you know of any companies that are selling products relevant to your technology? If so, they may be a prospective partner, particularly if your technology can be used to improve or complement the prospective licensee’s existing products, and your partner has the means to commercially exploit the technology. However, if you don’t know of any companies offering such products, how do you find prospective partners? Good sources for potential licensees include listings in trade magazines, directories, patent and literature searches. Visiting trade shows or conferences and word-by-mouth publicity is another good way to identify and meet potential licensees. Alternatively, you can also publicize the availability of a license through trade journals and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Official Gazette if the technology is patented, and have potential licensees come to you.

Before you contact the prospective partner to discuss your technology further, you should qualify the potential licensee by ascertaining several factors such as financial strength, technical and market expertise, sales/distribution network, commitment to relevant product line, etc. Much of this information is available online for free or through commercial databases offered by LexisNexis, Hoovers, and Dun & Bradstreet. The investigation can be done in a brief fashion initially before the licensee expresses an interest in the technology. You can follow up more fully once the prospective licensee shows some interest.

Qualifying the prospective strategic alliance partners before you begin serious discussions is important, as it may help a small business owner to avoid headaches later on by not entering into an alliance relationship with the wrong partner. Before considering serious discussions with a potential partner, it is helpful to have a non-disclosure agreement in place. We will discuss such agreements in the next blog.

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