In the series on Infringements we have already covered a number of different aspects. In this BL&G I focus on how to track down infringements. In other words: how do you find out if competitors are bringing products onto the market that infringe your patent? Four tips.
Tip 1: Communication channels
To start off with you can keep a close watch on your competitors' communication channels. Pay regular visits to their website and read their brochures and other publications to see what products they are offering and where.
Tip 2: Competitors' patent applications
It is also interesting to keep an eye on the patent applications your competing colleagues are filing for inventions. After all, a patent application is generally published before the product based on it is brought onto the market.
Tip 3: Get the whole organisation involved
On top of that I recommend that you get the rest of your organisation involved in the monitoring of your Intellectual Property rights as this is not something you should be doing on your own. Representatives in particular have a good insight into your competitors' activities. They are aware of what is happening in the market because they attend exhibitions and hear things from their customers. This increases your chances of quickly tracking down potential infringers.
People often think that the product, as depicted in the patent drawings, is the patented ‘invention’. Instead, however, it is the patent as described in the claims of the patent specification. You therefore have to look beyond your own product or application.
You have developed a pen which has a clever operating mechanism inside it. The advantage of this mechanism is that it is hard-wearing, can be operated by means of a very light touch and it is cheap to make. The patented operating mechanism is inside a ballpoint pen you have successfully marketed. A drawing of this ballpoint pen has been included in your patent specification.
One potential pitfall is that your colleagues will only consider pens to be suspect if they look like your ballpoint pen on the outside and possibly check these to see if they contain the patented operating mechanism.
What your colleagues may perhaps be less alert to are pens with a totally different appearance because they do not look anything like the drawing of the ballpoint pen in the patent specification. However, pens that look different could very well contain the technically innovative operating mechanism. If the latter is the case, this does involve an infringement of your patent!
Tip 4: Consolidate the information
It is essential therefore that your organisation knows what your patented invention consists of. To help with this we recommend that you (or possibly your patent attorney) put the details of your patented invention on paper in a couple of easy to understand sentences, together with the end date of the patent and the countries it is valid in, for instance. This makes it easier for others to recognise and infringing product.