The 80’s was an amazing decade. Big hair, Brat Pack movies, parachute pants, and George Michael all left an indelible mark on my then young and impressionable psyche. Now, as I look back with a different perspective, I also remember how cool the Japanese culture was to me (my mother is Sansei, third generation Japanese American which makes me… um, fully American.) Movies like Michael Keaton’s Gung Ho and Ralph Macchio’s Karate Kid only emphasized the cultural, economic, and technical influences that pervaded the American culture.  

In the 1980’s, Japanese industries gained their competitive edge by copying Western products, improving upon them, and selling them back to the West for cheaper prices. (VHS players, cellular phones, and cars – to just name a few – were invented in America and the Japanese took those ideas and dominated their respective industries.) So, here is my long-winded point: protect your IP! While America was heralded for incubating creative and unique ideas, Japan made those ideas her own by streamlining the manufacturing process and mass marketing the products.

Today’s current patent problems lie in the process and affordability of protecting one’s IP. “The U.S. patent system has always aimed at providing more early-stage access by setting patent filing fees cheap, and recently even cheaper for the neediest, a policy that differs markedly from many countries where expensive fees and fragmented patent systems impose high transaction costs on inventors,” remarks David J. Kappos and Stuart Graham on Fortune.com.  “As technology and law become more complex, inventors are forced to use lawyers to prepare patent applications, which in turn creates a patent system inaccessible to many worthy inventors. Does that delay the arrival of great inventions, or worse, prevent them from reaching the market altogether?”

Fortunately, tapping into more affordable, independent patent attorneys online, such as those available on UpCounsel, are helping to remove this costly roadblock for inventors by offering legal services at a fraction of the cost of traditional law firms. Since they are primarily based online and carry minimal overhead when compared to big law firms, they can provide a higher level of services for a variety of needs regardless of the location.

Making patents more accessible to entrepreneurs is necessary for American businesses to thrive. “Business prospers when inventors can specialize in inventing, and generate a steady supply of great ideas for companies to license-in or acquire. And unless there is good intellectual property protection available early on, the inventors have less incentive, less confidence, and less wherewithal to invent and pursue their inventions to completion,” explains Kappos and Graham. “Companies suffer too, since they will have fewer opportunities to turn those inventions into new products and services in the marketplace (lower supply), and no patent protection in the later stages to secure corporate profits (less investment incentive).”

While styles may have changed and idols of the 80’s are now the reality stars of today, one thing hasn’t changed: the inventive and entrepreneurial spirit of the American small business owner.

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Christina Morales

Christina helps provide useful business and legal tips on UpCounsel for our customers and visitors. Having over a decade of writing experience in a variety of industries, she has also been very close to the legal space from a young age with family members who continue to practice business and tax law.

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