1. Determining Whether to Apply for a Patent
2. Patent Protection
3. Research Your Patent
4. Strategy

Patents, and patent protection strategies, are a substantial portion of the commercial value of a startup company. Patents are used to protect your company and its products, foster business relationships, and generate revenue. When a product is patent protected, it prevents another company from using your technology and developing a similar, competitive product. If another company does need your patent protected product, this can be an opportunity to build a business relationship beneficial to both parties. Companies may also license or buy your patent-protected technology or product, and this can be used as a stream of revenue.

Determining Whether to Apply for a Patent

When looking to obtain a patent, there are some considerations that a company should keep in mind.

  • Your product may not be able to be able to be patent-protected if it is easy to reproduce or does not provide better value than the competition.
  • Start-up companies, especially in technology, may not have the financial means to obtain a patent.
  • Government funding may be available to assist technology start-up companies with the costs of patent applications.

Choose the products and technology you wish to patent carefully. As much as it is important to patent the right things, it is more significant to ensure that you don't miss out on important patents for the sake of saving money for your business.

Patent Protection

A patent will grant exclusive rights to the patented product or technology within certain boundaries for twenty years from the date of filing. This prevents anyone else for producing or selling the item. Once the twenty years are passed, the protection expires.

A patent must be filed for each region or country in order to have protection in that jurisdiction. Once a patent is filed in one country, you usually have a year to file for patents in other countries where you wish to protect the patent. Part of the company strategy when it comes to patents is to determine in what jurisdiction the patent is needed. Considerations include the location of your market, the location of the competition's market, how many jurisdictions your business can afford to enforce the patent in, and in which jurisdictions you can enforce your patent.

Research Your Patent

As part of your company patent protection strategy, it is important to do due diligence and complete research before applying for a patent.

  • Intellectual property review: During an intellectual property review, you ask a series of questions to determine if their are any patentable inventions or technologies within the company. This is typically done through an audit or company survey. An item that has been publicly disclosed cannot be patented, or must be patented within a certain amount of time of the disclosure.
  • Prior art search: Once you have some ideas as to products, ideas, or technology that you may wish to patent, perform a prior art search. Using this search, you look for related inventions or descriptions. This will help you determine if the item you want to patent is unique.
  • Freedom to operate search: Using this search, you can determine if any of the materials or processes that you need to use for your patent are already patented. If they are, you may need to obtain an agreement or license with the owner of the already-patented process or technology in order to continue with your own patent.

Strategy

There are three main strategies involving patent protection. The best strategy will depend on many factors, including your products, competitors, and budget.

  • With the offensive patent strategy, the company files for any reasonable patents as soon as possible. This is used by most large technology companies. It is an effective strategy, but also expensive.
  • Companies using the defensive patent strategy only file patents when they want to use technology or innovation without the risk of a competitor using it. This is a more cost effective method for startups, but fewer royalties will be generated with this method.
  • If your company uses defensive publication or disclosure, you simply take any innovations immediately to the public forum so they are not able to be patented by you or anyone else.

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