The cost of protecting innovations can be onerous. There are drafting costs, international filing costs, prosecution costs, and then they hit you with renewal fees every year.
The trouble is, IP protection can be critical. Small businesses need IP protection to battle big businesses. Larger businesses need IP protection to battle pirates.
But there’s no point spending tens of thousands of dollars and ending up with a fancy piece of paper that has your name on it and nothing more.
Here’s what a business can do to ensure their IP is effective.
Work out what you want to protect
While you value an overall system you’ve designed, a granted patent will be directed to a specific feature of that system. You can stop competitors from using (selling, making, importing) that feature.
For the patent to have value, the protected features must provide a commercial benefit. That benefit might be the differentiation of products in a crowded market or effective operation of a process. The commercial benefit should cover the cost of the patent.
The protected features may be worked out late in the patenting process, but it’s useful to know what they might be early in the process.
Work out what you can protect
You can’t protect everything you want. But searching patent documents can reveal what is out there in the field and help in decision making. Searching can be expensive, but there are cost effective alternatives. A business can take a targeted search performed by patent searchers or within the patent office and review the results in house.
With that information, a patent attorney can draft a better, more directed patent application which includes substantial detail about the new features of your innovation and doesn’t get caught up in features that have been in the industry for decades.
Keep your patent attorney in the loop
Say your patent application perfectly covers your invention. The application proceeds to the international stage through national phase and is being prosecuted in the US. And you read it and think, “Nice application, but hey, we’re not really doing that anymore.”
Suddenly your patent attorney is scrambling to cover the commercial embodiment. Or worse, you have a granted patent that doesn’t stop people from selling your product.
It’s vital to tell your patent attorney when your product changes. The attorney can review the new product and the patent and tell you if the patent needs a new direction. The small cost here is worth it, because there’s no value to a patent that doesn’t cover your product.
It’s also vital to tell your patent attorney your business position and objectives. If you plan to sell your company your patent strategy may be different than if you plan to expand and maintain a position in the industry. New competitors and new investors can be relevant to your patent strategy.
Patenting is a process
It can be disheartening to see your patent claims rejected by the patent office. But part of patenting is negotiating, figuring out what has been invented before and putting words to the space you are carving between those things. Do not be surprised if you receive one or more rejections.
There’s a benefit to that process. While the application is pending you can adjust it to better cover your commercial embodiments, or to better cover a competitor’s product. Once a patent application is ready for acceptance you may wish to keep a second application pending to cover other aspects or stop infringers.
Make use of the benefits and grants
The Australian government is eager for businesses to innovate and trade internationally. There are tax refunds to recoup R&D costs. There are government grants that cover some of the costs of IP protection. Keeping on top of these can be burdensome, but the benefits tend to outweigh the costs. Some businesses would never proceed with international protection without R&D tax savings and Export Market Development Grant claims.
Patent attorneys and tax accountants should be broadly aware of the benefits and grants that are offered. Specialist consultancies can assist with grant applications and tax benefits.
Patents are indispensable for many businesses. But if a business doesn’t keep an eye on their patents, they can become worthless. It’s crucial to inform your patent attorneys of product changes, and commercial objectives. A business must take the time to know their IP protection. That way the value of the patent is greater than the cost.
As part of the 2019 Spark Festival Griffith Hack is excited to be hosting a workshop and IP expert speed dating evening 'Adding value to your start-up through IP'. The event, on 24 October, will provide start-ups with an opportunity to find out more about the value of protecting their IP and discuss their IP strategy with our experts. For more information click here.
To find out more about whether a patent is right for your strategy please contact one of our IP experts.