Archive for March, 2011

Late stage investments from US VC firms

Interesting article around growing appetite from US VC firms in late stage companies, at valuations that seem rocket high, but who knows! The dynamics of the shift are interesting – from some firms that missed the early bus, to others that are building a strategy around mixed stage investments.

Late stage invesment chart

Will Indian ecommerce segment see a similar chart, especially as companies succeed to create value and need bigger and bigger cheques?

Kickstarting “The Startup Centre”

I’ve been a raving lunatic about this, for almost the past eight months, talking to various folks in the ecosystem, listening, iterating and evolving and still realizing that there is enough evidence to point to the need of an existence of an entrepreneur-centric early stage hub and accelerator. The Startup Centre is an effort towards that.

The premise is that, today while there are close to 50+ incubation centres in the country, most of them are not fully functional, and the few that do are so because of the folks who drive it – not because of the facilities it offers. Secondly, it has a tendency to attract folks who do require a lot of handholding. And from our experience almost 90% of the kickass startups we bumped into, during our Proto.in days were out there in the wild. The question then was, as to how to support these entrepreneurs – accelerate – in any meaningful way.

Secondly, we also realize that the Indian startup landscape is all about events. We go from one event to another, and the meagre efforts that we do in terms of ecosystem building are all limited to the web, and that hasnt quite taken off.  My thought process goes back to how open source communities are built – with that live IRC channel – where people can drop by anytime to continue the conversation and to get help. TSC is an offline equivalent of that in a way.

We are planning to launch in a few cities. We are kickstarting the effort in Chennai – we’ve gotten a 2500sq ft office out of Alsa Mall, which will be home to most of the startup related events in Chennai, and will also become a hub to access resources etc. There is also a membership model for founding teams (only) to work out of – launching in May.  Entrepreneurship can be a bit lonely quitting that job and starting off and this could be a way to tacke that.

None of this would be possible without the amazing support that the community at large has been showing. We technically go live this weekend – by one of the first initiatives to build prototypes out of ideas folks might be having with our event – in50Hrs – More at http://in50hrs.thestartupcentre.com

Looking forward to what lies ahead.

PS: There is a plan for an accelerator in TSC, scheduled to launch in the June/July timeframe.

Trademarks registration in India – The Entrepreneur’s Guide.

We searched for info about filing a trademark, and came up empty-handed. So we wrote this: the Entrepreneur’s Guide to filing a trademark in India.

Why you need a trademarkA trademark is the mark, logo or trade name which identifies your business to your customers. A trademark registration is valid all over India. Even though the registration of a trademark is not compulsory, it has significant advantages:

  1. Registration of the mark creates a presumption of your ownership of the mark. In case someone else violates your trademark, it is much easier to proceed against them if you own a registered trademark. As an entrepreneur, the return on investment (ROI) on the time and money spent registering your trademark is huge as it does away with the hassle of establishing your trademark in a court if a dispute arises. If you are an online business, your trademark would usually include your domain name. In fact, getting a trade mark for your domain name is the only effective way of protecting against people who use names sounding similar to yours to get some of your traffic – the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) dispute resolution process is pretty much out of the reach of the average Indian entrepreneur.
  2. Registration in India will be needed before registering your trademark in other countries.
  3. You can only use the ® symbol if you have a registered trademark. (Note if your trademark is not yet registered, you can put ™ symbol next to it).
  4. Your trademark and your goodwill is an important part of the value of your business. Any serious investor would do an intellectual property (IP) audit to check whether your IP is sufficiently protected.

How does the process work?

The trademark registration process requires every applicant to specify the categories under which he would like to register his trademark. There are 45 categories/classes in all: Classes 1-34 deal with goods, while Classes 35-45 deal with services. See a list of trademark classes.Let us say you manufacture shirts under the brand Akosha. If you look at the classes of goods and services, your product would be registered under Class 25 – “Clothing, footwear, headgear”.  This means that you would only be protected against another person/company making any clothing, footwear or headgear under the same brand Akosha or a name which is deceptively similar to that. It does not mean that someone else cannot use the brand name Akosha for products in other categories (e.g. Akosha cigarettes, for example). There are exceptions to this rule, but the simple point is that it is important to choose which categories you would fall under carefully, and check if your business can fall under multiple categories (even in the future). The more categories you fall under, the better protected you would be. However, before you begin thinking of starting a business called ‘Samsung Shirts’, please look at “well known” trademarks section below.Also, word and logo trademarks have to filed separately. Therefore, you would have to file a trademark for the word “Akosha” under Class 25, and separately for any graphic representation (your logo) of Akosha under Class 25.Before filing the trademark, it is important to understand that if you file the trademark in your company’s name, the trademark will be owned by the company i.e. its shareholders (who might change from time to time). Therefore, some single founders prefer to get the trademark registered in their own name (and let their company use it under a trademark license agreement). Once you have understood the basic idea of registering your trademark, it is time to talk to a trademark lawyer. As an entrepreneur, it is generally not be worth your time to go and try to file the trademark yourself.

Costs and choosing a lawyer

Trademark application fees are Rs.2500 per mark per class. These are paid to the government. Lawyers usually charge anywhere between Rs.1000 to Rs.3000 per mark per class in addition to that. So if you file for a word mark and a graphic mark in two classes, it’ll cost around Rs.10,000 just in government fees, and another Rs.5000 to Rs.15000 on the lawyer’s fees. In addition to this, you will also have to pay for getting a trademark search done to check if there are other similar trademarks. Trademark searches usually cost Rs.500.It is wise to choose someone experienced and who has been recommended to you: well-identified classes, and a well-drafted application could become crucial in case any dispute arises later. The lawyer also helps you answer any queries that the Trademark Office may come back with and will usually charge separately for it. Do not hire your regular lawyer – your school classmate or uncle – make sure you go to a lawyer who has actually filed trademarks before.

Steps for registering your trademark

  1. Authorize a lawyer to act as your agent. See a sample Power of Attorney.
  2. The lawyer will conduct a search with the Trademark Office to check if there are any similar trademarks already registered under that particular class. There are two kinds of search: online and offline. It is recommended that you get both the searches done. Make sure the lawyer understands your business and is using the right keywords for this search. See sample offline search’s results.
  3. Depending upon the results of the search, the lawyer will draft your trademark application. In case someone already has the same or similar trademark, you may have to change yours. Or if you think that the trademark is rightfully yours, your lawyer will help you oppose that trademark. These days since most businesses also reserve domain names while registering their companies and brands, so it is generally easy to find out beforehand whether someone else is using an intended trademark.
  4. The lawyer will file your trademark application with the Trademark Office and send you the receipt. See a sample receipt from trademark office.
  5. After a few days, the lawyer will send you the Original Representation Sheet of your trademark as it has been filed with the Trademark Office. See a sample representation sheet.
  6. After this process starts the long wait. It can take anywhere between 18 months to 2 years for the Trademark Office to decide whether or not to grant you the trademark; if there are objections from the trademark office or from anyone else, it may take longer. At the end of this process, your trademark is published in the Trademark Journal.

Some issues which may crop up

So what are the kinds of things that the Trademark Office or other parties could have a problem with?Descriptive trademark: If you have a descriptive name, it will be difficult to get a trademark for it. For example, if a website called Apple sells apples, it would not be able to get a trademark for the name apple. A skilled lawyer may be able to draft your application in a way which makes this possible for you (essentially by claiming that you are not selling apples. Don’t ask!).Non-distinctive trademark: Your trademark needs to be distinctive for it to be registered. So it should not be similar to any other existing trademark i.e. a reasonable person should not be confuse your trademark with someone else’s. Also, you may have to work a bit on the graphic representation of your trademark to make it more distinctive. It is helpful to add a design to the word logo. For example, see the curved man on the www.naukri.com logo.Similar to a well-known trademark: While you have to specify classes under which to register your trademark, this does not mean that you can use a well-known trademark for a category other than what it is famous for. For example, Coke is a big brand for beverages, but since it is well known, you cannot use it for your own category, say software.There are several other grounds on which your trademark may be rejected but these don’t come into play very often (e.g. obscenity, hurting religious sentiment, misuse of emblems etc.).

Trademark offices in India

The following table sets out the different trademark offices in India. You should find a lawyer in the city which is nearest to you for registering your trademark.

Trademarks Registry
Trade Marks Registry MumbaiIntellectual Property Office Antop Hill Post Office,S.M.Road, Antop Hill,Mumbai-400 037
Trade Marks Registry,Delhi Intellectual Property Office Plot NO.32,Sector 14,Dwarka, New Delhi-110075
Trade Marks Registry,Kolkata Intellectual Property Office CP-2, Sector V, Salt Lake city, Kolkata-700091
Trade Marks Registry, ChennaiIntellectual Property OfficeG.S.T. Road, GuindyChennai-600 032
Trade Marks Registry,Ahmedabad National Chambers, 15/27,1st floor, Ashram road,Ahmedabad-380 009

Have we left something out? Was this article useful? Don’t forget to leave your comments below. Some comments are answered here.

Interesting payment opportunity – international transactions COD

Interesting note here – India should have a parallel opportunity, perhaps including delivery logistics.

India’s first-ever multi-city boot-camp by IAN

Indian Angel Network announces India’s first-ever multi-city start-up bootcamp.

This event would give an opportunity to both budding as well as established entrepreneurs to gain access to IAN angel members as well as certain power-packed panel discussions on various fund-raising challenges.

Further, to inspire entrepreneurism beyond the niche social circles – the event would also involve certain innovative formats such as an element of mass online voting to help selecting the short-list of winning start-ups and ideas. It would also host ‘Ideas Marketplace’ at every centre : wherein selected ideas would be given an opportunity to convince the participants of their ideas in 5 minutes and gain ‘proxy investments’ from them. The winning ideas would then also be given an opportunity to get incubated by IAN Incubator.

You are requested to please login on www.boot-camp.in for further details or send a mail to us info@boot-camp.in for any further details.

The submissions open from March 2, 2011 and will close on different dates at various centres. Kindly check the site for more information.

You may also follow us on facebook and twitter @SBVentures.

5 Canaan companies in Top 50 Venture backed list

Venturesource has published its list of top 50 venture backed companies. Canaan is privileged to have partnered with great entrepreneurial talent behind 5 of these companies – Xirrus, The Active Network, Zoosk, Endogastric Solutions and Soasta. Congratulations to everyone who made the list!

Venture Capital in India – the Next Decade

I authored this article for Inc Feb 2011 issue. The underlying strength of growing markets and entrepreneurial talent make growth of venture capital a foregone conclusion – the questions lie more around how it will take shape… Would love your thoughts!

iYogi on Inc cover

Inc India carries iYogi as cover story for March 2011. Some great insights into what has gone behind the rapid scale iYogi has seen over last 4 years.

Welcoming Rahul Khanna to Canaan

Happy to announce that Rahul Khanna will be joining Canaan as Managing Director. As many of you would know, Rahul was with Clearstone India till recently, and has had operating and startup experience before that. He has built a credible network in the Indian venture space, and has been at the center of some evolving startup successes in India. Excited to have him on board; please join me in welcoming him.