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What Your Patent Lawyer Won’t Tell You and How It Can Save You Money

by The Business Alchemist

in Business Tips

PatentOne of the most difficult questions for a product development consultant is “Should I apply for a patent ?”. A straight answer is difficult because there are two completely opposite patent myths.

Myth #1 : Patents are valuable because you have a monopoly for your product
Myth #2 : Less than 1% of patents make any money for the inventor

My personal view is that it usually doesn’t matter. A successful new product depends on understanding your customers and markets. The novelty of your product isn’t important unless it’s the only way to solve their problems. Customers buy solutions not patents.

There are some good reasons that you might want a patent :

  • You have the right to exclude others from making, using or selling what your patent claims
  • It’s easier to raise finance if you can demonstrate a barrier to competition
  • You have the opportunity to sell licences to use your invention
  • Products based on patented inventions sometimes have taxation advantages

There are also reasons that a patent may not be worth the effort:

  • It’s expensive, involving for example search costs, application and renewal fees
  • It takes typically one man-year of work before you can make an application
  • It can delay the work to turn the invention into a product that you can sell
  • You have to disclose details that are useful to competitors
  • Your application may be opposed and require extra work to prove your claim
  • You must enforce the patent yourself if you find an infringement = time and expense

Here are some thoughts to help you decide whether a patent is right for you and some hints if you go ahead:

  • Investigate potential markets. If they don’t exist, the patent has no purpose.
  • Search National and International databases for previous similar inventions.
  • Use as many different descriptions as you can think of.
  • Compare your invention with what is already published. Is it a completely new idea or an obvious improvement of an existing invention ? This exercise also protects you from infringing somebody else’s patent
  • Is your invention the best way to solve the problem ? If not, why patent it
  • Is there an easy way around your own invention to solve the problem ? If Yes, a competitor will find it
  • Can you easily identify infringement ? Do you have the resources to take action ?

If you cannot enforce a patent, it is of little use to you.

  • Do you require a large amount of finance ? A patent may show potential investors that you will face little competition. An application for the patent will not.
  • Are there already competitors with patents ? Find a gap in their patent cover and make it yours. The defensive patent helps your negotiating position if they accuse you of infringement
  • Are there taxation advantages for products based on patents ? The financial advantages might significantly outweigh the costs

A patent cannot substitute for understanding your market and designing products that meet the customer needs. If it is not obvious that a patent is necessary or valuable, it probably isn’t.

If you are not applying for a patent, experiment with your product and early customers to identify the features that they value and will pay for. You will be able to enter the larger market more quickly and with more confidence of success.

If you would like to discuss this subject further, please contact me via the link below and also receive my report “Ten practical tips to find original answers to any business problem”.

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