Patent Protection: Why Every Inventor Should Consider It

Benefit #1: Creating a Barrier to Entry

A patent provides inventors with an exclusionary right, erecting a barrier that prevents others from competing against them. Competitors are unable to introduce their own version of the patented product into the marketplace. In the event that competitors do enter the market, the inventor has the legal grounds to sue for patent infringement. This can result in the competitors being forced to return profits and cease their sales and marketing efforts.

It’s important to note that a patent is not immediately granted upon filing the application. It is initially marked as “patent pending.” Therefore, competitors can appropriate the invention without penalty during this period. However, filing a patent is still crucial for long-term business success. Even if competitors market the invention before the patent is granted, they may later become licensees and be required to pay royalties. Additionally, their early marketing efforts help create a demand for the patented invention.

If it’s vital for the patent to mature quickly, there are ways to expedite the process. Filing a Prioritized Examination Request or a Petition to Make Special can lead to examination occurring within 4-6 months after filing the nonprovisional patent application. This allows for a patent to be secured in as little as 6-9 months. Expedited processing is particularly useful for rapidly evolving technologies that may become outdated within a year or two. Standard examination processing takes approximately 2-3 years before a patent is granted.

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Keep in mind that marketing a product without seeking a patent may result in forfeiting the ability to secure one. It’s crucial to understand the potential consequences of not pursuing patent protection.

Benefit #2: Increased Prices and Profitability

The second benefit of patent protection lies in its potential to increase prices and profitability. A patent grants inventors the ability to sell their product at a higher price, especially when there is significant market demand. It does not, however, directly create market demand for the product. The value of a patent is realized when it prevents others from introducing their own version of the patented product, thereby maintaining higher prices. By having exclusive rights, the patent owner can potentially raise prices and increase profitability, provided there is substantial market demand.

Under this system, patent owners can sell their patented products at higher prices from the date the patent is granted until its expiration, which is generally 20 years after filing the patent application.

Benefit #3: Leveling the Playing Field with Large Corporations

One of the significant benefits of patent protection is its ability to level the playing field for small companies or solo inventors against large corporations. In the marketplace, large corporations often have numerous advantages over smaller entities, including funding, marketing relationships, and distribution channels. In the absence of a patent, a small company or solo inventor would likely struggle to compete against a large corporation and may lose market share.

However, with a patent in place, the dynamics change. If a large corporation infringes upon the patent of a small company or startup, the patent owner has the legal right to sue for patent infringement. This can result in the large corporation facing financial damages and potentially being stopped from further manufacturing and sales. While the high cost of patent litigation may discourage some patent owners, it’s important to note that many cases are resolved through negotiation or the infringer voluntarily ceasing sales of the infringing product.

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Patent Protection: Benefiting Society as a Whole

In addition to the benefits for inventors themselves, the patent system also serves a broader purpose in society. By offering inventors the promise of a patent, the system encourages innovation and knowledge sharing. The government utilizes patents to promote the progress of science and useful arts, as stated in the U.S. Constitution. The patent system grants inventors exclusive rights for a limited time in exchange for sharing the details of their inventions, allowing the public to learn and benefit from them once the patent expires.

Teaching the public how to make and use their inventions is a fundamental aspect of the patent system. Inventors achieve this through written explanations submitted to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), which are published for public access. Even if the technology isn’t introduced in the market, the public can still learn and use it by searching the patent application database. At the beginning of the patent’s 20-year term, only the inventor can exploit the technology, but after its expiration, anyone can utilize it.

The patent system establishes a contract between inventors and the government. While inventors enjoy exclusive rights for a limited period, the government gains access to new inventions and encourages technological advancement in the long run. The patent system benefits both parties, as inventors protect their revenue stream while contributing to the collective knowledge of the public.

To fully understand the benefits of the patent system, it’s crucial for inventors to grasp its workings. By comprehending its principles, inventors can navigate any rejections they may face, as well as appreciate the seemingly counterintuitive aspects of the system.

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For more information on patent protection and other ways to safeguard your invention, visit Garrity Traina.

Images courtesy of Garrity Traina.