Patents, you may have some or may never have really thought about them. It does not really matter. However it is important to realise that they play a major role in the high-tech sector. I myself worked as a patent attorney at ASML for years and saw how the company grew into an international player partly thanks to its patents. I now work as a patent attorney at EP&C Patent Attorneys. Still in the high-tech sector, but I now also work with SMEs and independent inventors.
In the coming period, I am going to be writing a monthly blog about my experiences with these different parties. About their questions, about important developments, typical lawsuits and other important issues. For now, I think it would be good idea to start with the basics. How do patents work and why could they perhaps be of interest to you?
How do patents work?
A patent gives you the exclusive right to market an invention, which essentially means that you can stop others from copying your invention. When you apply for a patent on a newly invented technology, that application will be assessed on criteria such as novelty and inventive step. If the application is approved, you can prevent others from using your invention for up to 20 years. But what makes this so interesting?
Keep your competitors at bay
This question takes me back to ASML, which became a big player thanks to its intellectual property rights. They started with 40 people and a handful of patents, but by carefully protecting new innovations, they managed to gain a stronger position in the market. Smart innovations and effective patent protection make a company more valuable.
I nevertheless still often speak to entrepreneurs who do not want to have anything to do with patents. They feel they are too expensive, too complicated, or that their business has been doing just fine without them for years. Of course, things can go perfectly well as they are for ages, but could they not be done in a more effective, smarter and safer way? Are you absolutely sure that your competitors are not secretly using your technology? And even if they are not, what is the guarantee that they will not be using it in the long run? Would it not be better to deprive them of this opportunity and thus become the only one who is allowed to use the technology?
A patent is not an end in itself, but a means to an end. It makes it more difficult for competitors to make the same products. It shows potential investors that you handle their money wisely. It can be a considerable source of income if you license it. In the 20 years of exclusive rights provided by a patent, you can get a great deal out of patent protection. But the more careful you are in managing it, the more the investment will pay for itself.
Now, you may not have the ambition to grow into a company the size of ASML, but, in my opinion, it never hurts to stay ahead of the competition. Besides applying for a patent, there are many other ways in which a patent attorney can help you with this. I will be discussing them in my forthcoming blogs. In the meantime, if you have any questions about your innovations and their protection, then by all means email me [mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org].