FemTech – the long-overlooked gap in the health market surrounding women’s health
Despite making up half of the planet’s population, women are significantly underrepresented in life sciences research. Until 1993, women were excluded from clinical trials with studies being tailored to the male body as the standard. Inevitably, this has led to dangerous gaps in our knowledge of how different drugs and diseases affect women. Much of our biomedical research disproportionately focuses on how male biology is affected with the female side of things taking a back seat.
Fortunately, it seems that innovators and inventors are finally becoming aware of the huge gap in the market. The taboo surrounding women’s reproductive health is being eroded and the tide is turning. The FemTech movement is here.
FemTech, as coined by Ida Tin, co-founder of period-tracking app Clue in 2016, encompasses technologies specifically focused on addressing and supporting women’s health. Since 2016, the industry has grown rapidly and a multitude of app and technology companies have sprung up to address women’s health needs. In general, innovations under the FemTech umbrella fall into one of the following categories:
- Fertility and birth control
- Menstruation, period pain and period care products
- Hormonal disorders
- Breast feeding
- Sexual Wellness
- Pelvic health
- Pregnancy and Post pregnancy
- Breast feeding
The FemTech industry is very much on the rise with the market frequently being described as “booming”. Forecasts show that the total global market is expected to grow to $50 billion by 2025. Intellectual property protection is clearly fundamental to the continued growth of this industry and innovations in the space are rapidly emerging.
Pioneering companies are forging ahead with businesses like Clue creating a revolutionary period-tracking app used by 12 million women monthly, and Elvie which developed the first wireless, silent, electric breast pump. Elvie is not stopping there and appears to have several pending European patent applications for related technologies in the pipeline. Its patent portfolio is growing with several PCT applications being filed in the last two years, including applications for an in-bra passive suction-based milk collection device and a wearable breast pump system with a sleek and discreet design.
Patents are also in force for AI-powered mobile technology for cervical cancer screening, methods of home testing for identifying a fertile window and a 100% biodegradable pregnancy to name a few. These are just a handful of the technologies changing the lives of women globally.
Protecting your FemTech business
When you are creating your business, you are under many pressures both financially and strategically. It is often tempting to seek to delay costs until the next stage of funding is secured. However, consideration should be given to IP protection at an early stage because it can be difficult to secure beneficial protection at a later stage. Once protection is in place, it can be supplemented or trimmed down as the business develops.
The main types of IP protection FemTech businesses should consider are:
At Forresters, we can sit down with you and listen to your business model and aims, and guide you through a protection strategy which often involves a combination of IP creating layers of protection for your business.
We will ask you questions about the products you are producing, be those physical products and devices or apps and algorithms. We will explore with you who owns the IP and the types of contracts and non-disclosure agreements you should have in place when negotiating with other parties and approaching investors. If you need to present prototypes to investors, we explain how best to do this while protecting your IP position. We will also explain business trade secrets and how best to keep those secure.
Our multi-disciplinary teams at Forresters handle many patents, design and trade mark applications in this growing field and also work with inventors in the post-pregnancy fields, such as maternity wear, swaddling suits and baby feeding bottles. We would be happy to discuss your IP portfolio with you.
So, what’s next?
Although FemTech is thriving, women’s health continues to lack investment worldwide and the global market is not yet saturated. There is a great deal of unexploited potential in the field and consequently, we should expect to see many more innovations supporting women’s health in the near future.
Women’s health issues, side-lined for so long, are now commanding increasing attention in both industry and the media. We look forward to supporting that growth with our practical and strategic IP advice.