Tech startup PatentStatus counting victories

March 6, 2013
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It seems fitting that the America Invents Act spurred Indianapolis product-development pro James Burnes to conjure up a business that helps companies manage their intellectual property portfolios online.

PatentStatus launched in January 2012—mere months after President Obama signed the legislation updating U.S. patent law. Among its changes: a provision allowing patent holders to use a web address to mark protected products. Traditionally, individual patent numbers have been imprinted on the products themselves.

Burnes recognized the opportunity and enlisted the help of a development team from local software firm WDDinc. They built an online platform capable of handling millions of patent records, and Burnes set out to sell the idea to patent attorneys.

He scored an early win, prevailing in a startup competition with a juicy prize: tickets to watch the 2012 Super Bowl with Startup America CEO Scott Case. Burnes got feedback on his idea from Case (who was Priceline.com’s founding chief technology officer) and access to hundreds of decision makers in Indianapolis for the big game.

A year later, PatentStatus is still counting victories—the most recent coming March 1, when the company was named the Entrepreneurship Advancement Center’s Top Emerging Business for 2013. The Fishers-based not-for-profit supports innovation.

Burnes is just as proud of another achievement: The company is making money.

“We are cash-flow positive,” he said. “There’s still a lot of room to grow, but that’s huge.”

PatentStatus has landed a number of out-of-state clients in the consumer products, life sciences and medical-device industries, he said. It also has a robust pipeline of prospects including global brands such as Briggs & Stratton, Kimberly Clark and Caterpillar.

While virtual patent marking remains the firm’s primary service, Burnes has found plenty of demand for its patent-tracking platform, which helps companies understand how they are using existing patents.

“That’s the icing on the cake,” Burnes said.

Burnes financed the startup himself, but took Case’s advice and found investors to help grow the business. He declined to share specifics, saying only that he raised “more than six figures” from a number of private investors.

“I feel good about the future,” he said.

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