Patents are the ultimate competitive weapon. Small businesses and startups can use them to protect their innovations from competitors, generate revenue, and establish their reputation. However, it’s not always easy for a company without in-house patent expertise or deep pockets to know where to start. This blog post is designed to help you find your way through the patent process–from determining whether patents would be worth pursuing at all, to drafting an application that will stand up against challenges by potential infringers, and getting the qualified help from Lloyd & Mousilli Houston.
When is a patent needed?
There are some situations where a patent is absolutely needed. These include inventions that have the potential to generate significant revenue based on a unique mechanism, and products or services with high levels of exclusivity (e.g., pharmaceuticals).
If your business has one product that it sells exclusively, then you will need patents on those aspects of your company’s offering–the things that make it unique and different from the rest of the market.
If you have a product that has potential to achieve significant success because your technology is novel, patent protection may be worth exploring further–particularly if competitors are likely to want to replicate or license your intellectual property for their own purposes.
What’s the correct way of registering and using a patent?
The first step for any startup is to conduct a patent search. This will help you identify whether your product or service has been patented already and, if not, it can provide ideas for what aspects of the company’s offering should be protected by patents so that they are unique competitors won’t have an easy time copying them.
Patent searches can be complex and intimidating, and let’s not even get into the process of registering the patent, that worry of whether you’re approved or denied by the USPTO. This is where a patent lawyer’s professional counsel comes in handy.
A patent lawyer can help you in every step of the process: searching, registering and applying for patents, as well as licensing or selling your intellectual property.
Keep in mind that patents are released to the public when issued. If you have a secret formula, system or design method that should not be exposed to the public by any means (think Coca-Cola), utilize the second way to protect your company’s inventions: a trade secret agreement with employees and/or business partners that are not allowed to disclose any confidential information about the product.
How do you develop and use a portfolio of patents?
It’s important to look at how your competitors are using a wide array of registered intellectual property. Look for answers to questions such as: “do they have an organized intellectual property strategy?” “Do they seem to have a lot of patents filed?” “What types of patents do they have?”
In addition, it’s important that you are continually filing for new patents. It is likely your competitors will be doing this as well and if you’re not seeking out opportunities to patent your intellectual property, then someone else in the industry will fill that gap — meaning you’ll either have to wait 20 years for expiration or license their patent (if they even allow it).
You can get a head start by identifying promising patents for your company and filing them before you release the product or service to the public: this is called first-to-file. This will help protect your innovation from being copied by competitors, which in turn helps grow market share of similar products/services that are currently on the market.
Hiring a patent attorney Houston for your team is a smart decision, one that is sure to make an immediate difference for your startup.