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Life sciences includes pharmaceuticals, biotech, and medical devices. IP protection is incredibly important in these fields because of the expensive and long development times and need for defensibility to recoup the initial investment. Many VCs require life sciences startups to have filed patent applications before they will consider investing.
Unless you have a patent, there is little protection in the hardware space from competitors who can reverse engineer and copy your company's hardware product and sell it at a lower price. For this reason, patents are very important for hardware startups and can sometimes be necessary to attract outside investment.
Software touches every part of the economy, and a fundamental innovation in software can serve as build blocking used by others for decades to come. Approximately half of patent applications filed in the U.S. are now on software inventions, and about half of patent lawsuits in the U.S. relate to software. For these reasons it can be very important for software startups to know about patents.