ENTREPRENEURS should pay attention to intellectual property (IP) protection from the word go in order to protect their investment, according to visiting experts from the United States.IP strategist Ron Laurie told The Straits Times: ‘Historically, we don’t see a lot of patent activity among small-timers but patents are sometimes the only defence mechanisms available.’ Mr Laurie is managing director of the Silicon Valley-based consultancy Inflexion Point Strategy, which advises tech firms and institutional investors on IP issues. His view was echoed by Mr Craig Smith, a commercial licensing manager at Sandia National Laboratories, which is a contractor for United States defence giant Lockheed Martin. ‘The real issue is with the investors and not the start-ups… how they feel about investing in patents,’ said Mr Smith. The experts were in town early this month to talk to aspiring entrepreneurs in the ongoing Ideas Inc Business Challenge. Mr Laurie noted: ‘Where there is a large capital investment, IP protection is important to preserve a sustainable competitive advantage.’ He said innovative start-ups should be more forward-thinking or risk the loss of opportunities: ‘Inventors need to think about their inventions in new ways… what other applications are there? ‘Forward-thinking is not an easy process, even the best engineers think only about immediate functionality… but the trick is to elevate one’s thinking.’ Mr Laurie added that Singapore is well-positioned to become a ‘major intersection point for IP transactions’, citing its location, knowledge infrastructure and respect for the rule of law. ‘Singapore is trusted around the world… it is the Switzerland of IPs in Asia,’ he added. ‘IP is a future commodity of the knowledge business, so Singapore is a very natural place to do transactions. It’s important to build on the trust here.