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Is there a business case for patent protection? - 22 September 2015
Since we are patent attorneys, we will always argue in the affirmative right? Not so. Like any other investment decision, the costs and benefits of pursuing patent protection should be weighed up on a case by case basis (more on pursuing patent protection, patent costs and patent rights).
A business plan should be a first step. Contrary to popular belief, the world will not beat a path to your door simply because you build a better mousetrap. More likely, you will need to beat a path to the world. Unless you are already established in the relevant industry, commercialising your invention will probably require finding investors, manufacturers and distributors. This will likely entail hard work and no shortage of commitment.
Yes, patent rights can be sold and this is one way that you might profit from your invention, but even selling a patent right will require some effort. It’s unlikely to be as easy as listing it on eBay. Don’t count on a major corporation tracking you down and offering you a large sum of money! Whilst it is nice to dream, in the real world finding a buyer, negotiating an agreement and documenting that agreement will all require time, effort and money.
Once you have a business plan and have concluded that an investment in patent protection is warranted, discuss that plan with your attorney. Your patent filing strategy should be tailored to suit the business plan. Patent applications are filed on a country by country basis. Use discretion when selecting countries. There is no point in paying for a patent application in a country that you have no real interest in.
If your plan is to sell your patent application at an early stage, early patent examination may well be appropriate. A patent application with a favourable official examination report is more likely to be saleable than one without. On the other hand, that benefit has to be weighed against the cost of examination and the risk that it will not lead to a favourable report, so there is much to discuss.
There are two key messages I like to convey to anyone considering the patent system for the first time:
- It is usually a long road from a good invention to a profit (I hope I have conveyed that above); and
- If you decide that to take that road, I would like to help you along the way. Contributing to the success of individual inventors and new start-ups is immensely satisfying. It is a privilege.
Mechanical Engineer & Patent Attorney