Competition makes intellectual property management essential in modern business plans. Stolen product or process designs can take market share and profit, while holding a patent grants exclusive rights to produce and sell an invention. Patents also become business assets.
Patents might seem like a perfect solution, but consider these caveats before applying:
Patenting reveals your secrets Patents protect inventions, but procuring one involves divulging your design's inner workings. All patents, even pending ones, are published online for everyone, including competitors, to see. Some entrepreneurs forgo patents and keep their invention's secrets, like search engine algorithms that remain as trade secrets.
Patent applications are costly and time-consuming Patents must be filed legally and accepted by a governing organisation. The application process can be lengthy and expensive for startups. Some startups invest in product development instead. You can also apply for a provisional patent, granting 12 months of protection without revealing your invention's details. If you don't apply for a full patent after this period, the coverage lapses.
Patent applications can be denied Patent filing requirements are strict, and even with an attorney, there's no guarantee of acceptance. A denied application can set back your efforts.
Patents don't prevent idea theft Patents give legal ground for lawsuits if your idea is stolen, but don't make theft impossible. Companies with patented products can still have their designs copied. The burden is on the company to seek damages from offenders, with overseas litigation increasing costs.
When is a patent advantageous?
Patents can be powerful security for certain inventions. The key factor in determining a patent's worth is functionality. To receive a utility patent, prove that your invention is novel, nonobvious, and useful. Innovative, unique products or processes with demonstrable use are good candidates.
Consult with experts to determine if a patent suits your situation. Gaining an outside opinion can provide market research and a SWOT analysis of your company. Patents aren't inherently helpful or hurtful; their value depends on whether they protect your intellectual property and boost your balance sheet. If trade secrets offer better protection, a patent might not be the best choice.
Intellectual property management is complex but vital to your company's success, deserving attention and consideration for such important decisions.