Your patent strategy determines how well you will protect your business’s intellectual property. These innovations and inventions could leak out to your competition and the general public and may end up profiting others if you do not have a solid plan to protect them. Patents are generally issued to the first-to-file basis. This means that the first organization to present the documentation of the patent request becomes the owner of the invention even if the invention was created by someone else. There is also no single country patent that covers the whole world. That is why it is important to come up with a global patent strategy to cover every country where you offer goods and services.
You do not want years of research and development to go to waste. Here are a few tips to help you establish an effective strategy for your company.
- Search for similar technology or innovation
Before undertaking the long patenting process it is important that you scan the market for similar innovations or technologies. A proper search will identify patent publications and related literature that is associated with your innovation. It is at this point that you will also find possible patent infringement risk as well as potential competitors once you start offering products or services. Doing this will help you to draft a patent application that will go through. Start creating a patent strategy only after you have ascertained that your innovation is new and original. Otherwise, you may lose time and money when running after already available innovation.
- Prioritize when and where to patent
Most businesses, especially software startups are not in a hurry to patent their original works. Unfortunately, they realize too late when someone comes up with a similar innovation and patents it. Developing a patent strategy should be prioritized to avoid as soon as you come up with an innovation to avoid such a situation. Come up with criteria for determining if the innovation is valuable enough for patenting. Since the patenting process might not come cheap, not every small innovation requires patenting. Just patent those ideas that are likely to bring substantial revenue to the company.
When it comes to selling your services and products abroad, determine which countries you should patent your innovations. Do market research on the size of the potential market in the said country and possible value that you might get from selling products in the country. Do not waste cash on patenting technologies in countries with a small potential market.
An easy way to patent your invention internationally is the use of Patent Cooperation Treaty (PTC). This is a streamlined patenting system that gives access to over 140 patent offices around the world without having to visit each office. However, the decision to grant a patent lies solely on the country to which you apply for it. Using the PCT, you can get patents for up to 148 countries within a year after applying for a national patent.
- Increase the value of your patent strategy by creating a patent portfolio
Create a patenting portfolio that puts in place procedures to follow when entering new markets. Building a patent portfolio is vital especially when formulating a patent strategy for startups. The portfolio includes a combination of design patents, crown-jewel patents, and fence patents. Each type of patterns has a value that it brings to the company.
A patent portfolio protects the core processes, business practices, and technologies. It is in the portfolio that your business comes with cost-cutting measures by organizing patents in terms of their value and urgency with which the patent application will be pursued.
Develop patenting strategies for your portfolio to counter the political, social and impediments that come with international patenting processes. This enables you to perceive the risks involved and determine when to stop the process.
There should be a patent administrator who coordinates the functions of the patent review committee. The review committee should include members from the business management team, finance department, and departments where the invention will be used or is put to task. The members should be committed to ensuring that the inventions contained in your patent portfolio are guarded and a decision made with best intentions at heart.
- Develop a strategy for disclosure
Unless you have applied for a patent for your innovation, you lose the patent rights as soon as you disclose your innovation. A few countries including the U.S give a one-year grace period for application of a patent after the public disclosure of the innovation.
You may be forced to share some of the information about your innovation in the course of doing business or getting into trade agreements. That is why it is important to come up with ways of having everyone sign non-disclosure agreements even for innovations that are on the pipeline. Once the organization is satisfied that the innovation is valuable, you should file a patent before you present it for test marketing. Your disclosure strategy should contain a method of screening your audience, the signing of the non-disclosure agreements and ways to seek payment for damages should any member of the audience leak the information provided.
- Determine a way to differentiate between innovations that require patenting and trade secrets
You should apply for a patent for any process or change that can easily be duplicated or reverse engineered to determine the steps that were followed. However, there other processes that are hard to replicate or cannot be reverse engineered. Such processes can be maintained as trade secrets rather than being patented. This is because there is little likelihood that someone will get all the steps right to duplicate the product.
You should come up with a way to differentiate ideas that can be patented and what can be kept as a trade secret. You may formulate rules to separate different ideas as well as analyze possible risks that come with following each decision to the business. Here are other things that you need to keep in mind when differentiating the two:
- What is the likely lifespan of the innovation?
If software or any other product is likely to be overtaken by events in the near future (in less than ten years), there may not be a need to patent the idea. However, if there is a potential risk that the technology may be modified to create other innovations in the future, you may decide to patent your idea.
- Is it a modified idea?
Is your concept derived from another process? While you may steer clear of any other innovations done in the past, you may have a hard time convincing the patent office that the idea is really original. To avoid the wastage of time and resources, have a team that looks at literature and other information to determine if such improvements warrant a patent application or should remain a secret.
The patenting process is quite long and complex. You may run into delays and cancellations for simple errors of omission or inadequate documentation. Delays applying for a patent and disclosure mistakes may cause you to lose hold of important intellectual properties. Therefore, it is essential to seek the assistance of a qualified patent consultant in every stage of the patenting process. Contact Stellar Kent for assistance, information, and advice on various aspects of the patenting process or strategy formulation. Remember, it takes a robust patent strategy to benefit from your innovative ideas.