David versus Goliath: A patent as a weapon against high-tech giants
Are you afraid of the big giant, or do you believe in your own strength? The story of David and Goliath lends itself perfectly to the high-tech industry. A number of huge companies with a tremendous amount of power share the market with a large group of smaller, but no less clever ones. As an SME, you certainly do not have to comply with the laws of the big giants. This is evident not only from the Bible story, but also from my everyday experiences as a patent attorney. It may take something as simple as a small, square piece of thread.
Hanging on like a silk thread
Imagine: a high-tech giant develops a new machine. The machine contains a very specific wire from an external supplier that fits into it perfectly. The machine is a gap in the market and the manufacturer cannot wait to start selling it. But then it suddenly becomes clear that this particular wire has been patented by a completely different manufacturer.
This small company had filed a patent for the design of the wire in time to prohibit others from using it. Because of this patent, the high-tech giant's supplier was not allowed to supply the wire. If the market leader nevertheless were to decide to launch the new machine, including the wire, into the market, this would be an infringement, which could result in substantial damages. The sale of the new machine would then hang by a thread because of a small piece of copper.
Large companies are very careful not to infringe on other people's intellectual property. Especially that of their biggest competitors, because they tend to be very much on top of things. However, they cannot really be expected to check out all the rights on every single piece of wire and so they could unknowingly end up infringing.
This is why cases like this rarely end up in court. It is far more common for Goliath to try and come to an arrangement with David. In which case a settlement is reached, a licence is granted on the patent, the patent is sold, or the manufacturer becomes the regular supplier. Regardless of the outcome, the smaller entity can then often count on substantial compensation.
David can quite easily take on Goliath. He or she just has to be smart and stand up for their rights. It is important to consider protecting good ideas - however simple - with a patent and then checking to see if there are any infringements (click here for tips on how to track down infringements). Irrespective of who is infringing, don't be shy and stand up for your rights. With the help of your patent attorney, even the smallest piece of wire may be well worth protecting.