Top Reasons to Have a U.S. Patent
Before listing reasons you may want to file for a patent, it would be a good idea to review what a patent is, and is not: A patent is a grant by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office of the right to stop others from making, using, or selling an invention in the United States for a limited period.
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Before listing reasons you may want to file for a patent, it would be a good idea to review what a patent is, and is not: A patent is a grant by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office of the right to stop others from making, using, or selling an invention in the United States for a limited period. A patent is not the right to practice your invention yourself; there might be other people with superior rights to yours who have “dominating patents” and can stop you from making, using, or selling until their patents expire. So, why might you want to have a patent?
- Protecting your sales from competitors
This is the classic use of a patent: to stop others from making, using, or selling your invention.
- Having something to license
If you don’t intend to sell products but do want to sell or license your rights in an invention, as invention, then a patent or patent application gives you something to sell or license.
There is some value in being able to advertise that your product is protected by patent, or, if the patent hasn’t issued (yet), that it is “patent pending.” Many consumers will take this as a government endorsement of the product—“So wonderful, it’s even got a patent!” Of course, while a patent isn’t an endorsement, it is an indication that there was some novelty to the product and that the genuine product can only be obtained from you or your licensees.
- Raising money
Venture capitalists and banks like to see that a new company has patents, or at least patent applications filed, as an indication that the company has some intellectual assets and solidity. Most bankers and VCs can’t actually read the patents or understand what they cover, but they are impressed by numbers.
- Stopping others from getting patents that might interfere with your business
You cannot get a patent on something that was previously patented or disclosed in a publication. By filing an application on an invention, you make sure that no one who files after you will be able to get a patent that they could enforce against you. This applies equally well to published applications as to issued patents, so some people are filing applications they have no intention of actually paying to issue as patents, simply to get the subject matter on record. Of course, any publication will serve the same purpose; put up a web page or an ad in a local newspaper, and your idea is published. However, such outside publications are difficult to search and will not be found by patent examiners. Published applications will be found by a patent search; thus, for patent purposes, they are more effective.
- Getting in the way of competitors’ ability to expand
This is called “patenting ahead of the competition”. Some companies will try to figure out improvements to their competitors’ products and get patents on them as roadblocks for their competition. Of course, it takes fairly deep pockets to pull that off.
- Trading material
If you’ve got a patent that is useful to a competitor, and they have one that you need, you can trade patent rights. This is called “cross-licensing”.
Source: Michael F. Brown (www.bpmlegal.com) retired in 2017 as partner in the Ithaca, New York, law firm Brown & Michaels PC. Contact the firm at 607-256-2000; Chris Michaels’ email: firstname.lastname@example.org.