"Patents are complicated and expensive." That is the misconception I most frequently need to address. I am very much aware of the fact that this deters start-ups and growing businesses from building up a patent portfolio. However, I also hear these complaints from larger, established businesses. It is usually a sign that they are going about their Intellectual Property policy in the wrong way. It points to short-term thinking, whereas patents should be part of a long-term vision. I recently wrote an article for Metaalnieuws about how businesses are selling themselves short by not making this part of their long-term vision. I am quite happy to explain this again here.
Effective use of Intellectual Property
A patent application procedure takes more than a year, but what if you compare that period with the total term of protection? You have to make a number of choices, but once the patent has been granted, you will be able to benefit from it for up to twenty years. However, decisions about Intellectual Property are not always made by people who look that far ahead. The board, management and other departments that develop the plans are often not really involved in recording Intellectual Property rights. As far as I am concerned, that is a missed opportunity. (read our Blog: Setiing up an ip team)
On top of that, a patent application is made up of a number of financial components. They all add up, so you end up paying a substantial amount of money. But how does that amount relate to the proceeds? Properly used Intellectual Property rights can help you gain a monopoly position in your market in the long term. Or become a major source of income thanks to licences granted. They also give you the right to sue competitors for infringements and can therefore restrict the freedom of movement of others in the marketplace. It may be hard to offset that right against the cost of a patent beforehand, but it is definitely valuable.
Embedding IP in business strategy
"Patents are complicated and expensive" starts out from a vision that does not look beyond the next couple of years. It is disconnected from issues such as product development, expectations in the marketplace and international ambitions. It is precisely these elements that are the cornerstone of a good IP policy. The more closely that policy links up with your vision and ambition, the more valuable your patent portfolio becomes for your organisation.
Applying for a single patent may seem complicated and expensive. But a good patent stands for much more than ensuring that no one else is allowed to copy something. It is not an end in itself, but a means to an end. A means to strengthen your position, to roll out policies and to grow. Companies that understand this, that embed Intellectual Property in their strategy, get a far greater return from patents.
So is a patent complicated and expensive? That depends entirely on how you approach it. At times the procedure is complicated, but that is why you have patent attorneys to help you. There are also e-books and brochures available so that you have enough knowledge to make the right choices. For the rest, the most important question is: are you just focusing on the invoice you can expect or are you looking ahead to what that investment can yield?