How to Protect Your Business from Patent Infringement
Patents are a highly effective tool in the arsenal of most companies. They can act as an offensive and defensive weapon, allowing you to protect your innovative products and market yourself as a leader in your industry, while also preventing those who have stolen your technology from profiting off of it. But patents can also be costly. How do you make sure you're using them effectively? Here are a few tips that will help you keep your business safe from patent infringement.
1. What are patents, and why do you need them?
2. How to protect your business from patent infringement
You can protect your innovations by filing a patent for them. The patent gives you the right to prevent others from making, using, selling or importing your invention without your permission. Patents last for 20 years and are granted by the government. They can be expensive and complicated to obtain, so it’s important to make sure you’re protecting your inventions. Protecting your invention from patent infringement can cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars to tens of millions of dollars. The best way to ensure the patent stays in your control is to ensure you properly assign responsibility for it. First, pay close attention to what steps are required because a patent may need to be renewed. If your invention has a marketable product, you should protect your invention with a patent yourself. Because patents tend to be implemented by large companies, it’s important to determine who will pay for them, before you implement them. This will ensure you’re not financially at the mercy of ‘patents trolls.’ Before assigning responsibility for a patent, analyze projects where someone is likely to infringe the patent. Enterprise, technology negotiations, or open source projects may pose problems. Large companies may be reluctant to make a financial investment without thorough investigation that could reveal weaknesses in your technology or a weakness in their patent portfolio. In these cases, work with patent attorneys to determine who will pay for a patent. Where you assign responsibility for a patent depends on your organization. For example, you may decide to have your engineering organization pay for all necessary patent applications and to pay for any renewal or modification of patents. Consult your legal department for legal guidance in your country. If your invention has a practical application, legal expertise will help you determine who must pay for patent applications and renewals. In applying for a patent yourself, you will generate evidence of its practical usefulness. In the United States, the “patentable subject matter” requirement determines who must pay for the patent application. This places the onus on the inventor to prove his invention is patentable.
3. What you must do to prepare for patent litigation
If you are sued for patent infringement, it is important that you test the validity of the patent. There are two main ways to do this: 1) you can challenge the validity of the patent prior to a lawsuit. This can be done by filing a patent re-examination request with the USPTO. 2) you can challenge the validity of the patent during litigation. Litigation can be challenging, which is why it’s a good idea to seek the court’s guidance before taking the first step. Patents can be an unreliable barometer of innovation, particularly in emerging technologies like biotechnology and computer security. Therefore, before you decide whether or not to file for a patent, make sure to advocate for its validity through third-party research, invest in appropriate patent counsel, and consider external expert witness statements. Protecting your company from patent litigation isn’t just about intellectual property. It’s also about protecting your reputation. Before suing a competitor for infringing on a patent, conduct your own internal research. Challenge the validity of patents in court, and speak with patent counsel to determine whether any patents may be infringing. Non-practicing entities (NPEs) are businesses that aren’t making a profit but are licensed to practice their technology. You have probably heard of such entities by their common trade names: a patent licensing company, a company that provides consulting services to biotech innovators, a company that provides x-ray machines to health institutions, or so on. Of course, this doesn’t mean these types of organizations have to be nefarious! Don’t make the mistake of labeling all NPEs “bad actors.” If you identify problems with patents, the company may develop proprietary or anti-competitive strategies to protect its business model. However, remember that other actors in the patent ecosystem are also trying to innovate and protect their intellectual property. Before taking on the role of steward of your business’ patent portfolio, you need to look first for problems that may be arising in the use of your intellectual property. When evaluating whether an NPE has infringed on your patents, consider identifying common grounds for disagreement.
4. How a patent attorney can help you win your case
If you’re in the midst of a lawsuit, it can be confusing to figure out how to proceed. To help you win your case, it’s important to get the right legal help. A patent attorney can help you win because they have the education and experience to evaluate your case and help you choose the best course of action. Technology is inherently dynamic and constantly evolving. Also, patents are one of the few types of intellectual property that is constantly subject to change, meaning that any issued patents can be revoked or modified by later patent applications, thus affecting the validity and enforceability of your patent. If your company is developing a technological innovation, having an expert such as a patent attorney on your side ensures that the patent process goes smoothly. The best way to determine the size of your patent portfolio and work toward securing those valuable patents is to communicate directly with the Patent Office. This can be accomplished by: Patents are granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to inventors who can show that their invention relates to something of existing importance. To file a patent — and receive an exclusive license to use and sell the patent — inventors must demonstrate the following three things: You may be able to save some money by licensing a patent instead of purchasing it. The process of applying for a patent can be time-consuming and costly, so it’s best to analyze whether it’s a good fit for your company and its products. Before you go to court, you should determine the value of your invention by comparing it to similar products. This process is known as comparing the patented invention with competing products. You’ll need to compile a list of the existing, similar products in the marketplace. Then devise a business model that would allow you to profit from these similar products. Patents can be very valuable, especially if you incorporate some of the technologies patented into your products. Check out the January Pro Patent Buying Guide to see how to determine the value of a patent.