Tips to Curtail Patent Protection Costs

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Patents bestow the inventor with exclusive rights over their invention and prevent others from creating, using, or selling them without permission. They are an indispensable part of the Intellectual Portfolio of any company and safeguarding them is of paramount importance.  

Besides the enormous expenditure that goes into the R&D behind a patent and the huge patenting fees involved, patent protection also involves significant expenses. Considering this is a crucial requirement once you have secured a patent, we explore the means to minimise patent protection expenses in the following paragraphs. 

Table of Contents

Defining Patent Protection

Patent protection is awarded to those inventions, products, or processes which are considered unique, novel, and innovative. Once granted, it bars others from commercially utilising or manufacturing the patented tech.  

This gives the inventor the opportunity to leverage the hard work and money invested in the invention process as they may benefit financially by licensing or selling the tech to others. Therefore, maintaining the security of the invention to protect it from potential losses is important.  

Tips to Minimise Patent Protection Expenses

The easiest way to avoid the research, filing, and maintenance costs of a patent is to outsource from specialised companies. By employing the services of an external provider companies can save time and resources involved in securing a patent. It also allows them to focus on their strengths and core competencies while benefitting from the expert knowledge of the provider.  

Conducting a thorough prior art search to identify any existing technology that might be similar to your invention is an excellent way to curb patent protection costs. If your invention is not found to be unique or novel, the patent office holds the right to reject your application. Being aware of the prior art can save you precious time as well as expenses.  

Design, Utility, and Plant are the three categories under which patents are awarded.  

  • Utility Patent: Also referred to as ‘patents of invention’, these patents cover useful processes, manufacture, machine, composition of matter etc. Almost 90% of patents issued by the USPTO fall under this category. 
  • Design Patent: Any new, ornamental, or original design incorporated in a product is covered under design patents. Such patents are exempt from any maintenance fee. 
  • Plant Patent: New or discovered plants produced asexually fall under the category of plant patents. Mutants, hybrids, new seedlings, and cultivated sports are included in plant patents.  

Each patent category has specific eligibility requirements. A knowledge of which category your patent falls under can ensure that you avail the correct type of protection.  

Failure to do so may not only increase expenses but also lead to losses when you discover that the patent cannot be commercialised as it lacks the necessary protection.  

Licensing allows you to enter into an agreement with a patent owner to use their patent for a mutually agreed time frame. Cross-licensing, on the other hand, is a contractual arrangement where involved parties grant their patent licensing to each other.  

Both these arrangements offer substantial advantages in terms of expenses and otherwise. Transaction costs and product development costs are lowered, and so are the costs to acquire new technology. These mutual arrangements also help in reducing the time taken to develop new products/tech. The growth of the IP industry as a whole too benefits when IP networks are shared.  

A robust IP portfolio is not built by merely owning a large number of patents. It must showcase diversity and careful selection, as well as be continually updated.  

A colossal portfolio with patents that are no longer relevant constitutes a huge financial drain on the company’s resources. Portfolio pruning, therefore, is an important activity that must be periodically carried out in order to minimise protection costs by purging redundant patents.  

Legally, the difference between a full patent and a provisional patent is the absence of a Claims section in the latter. Provisional patents are short-term applications valid for a year that recognise the applicant as the first to file for a patent for a particular invention.  

They grant you the necessary protection and help defer patent costs for up to a year. This time span can be utilised to conduct more research and the money saved can be invested in further research.  

One of the crucial exercises carried out by the USPTO before the granting of a patent is the existence of prior art. Prior art refers to any public knowledge of the existence of your invention. Defensive publication utilises this caveat to grant protection to research.  

By publishing the details of your invention in the public domain, you can deter others from filing for a patent on the same tech. This method is much quicker than applying for a patent (which takes between 1-4 years), and considerably cheaper too.  

The global market phenomenon necessitates reaching out to international territories. This is accompanied by a need to patent abroad. However, one must not be hasty in making such decisions.  

In some markets it is impossible to enforce patents, therefore the cost-benefit of applying for a patent abroad requires careful consideration. By choosing one’s jurisdiction wisely, patent protection costs can be radically reduced.  

Conclusion 

The importance of patent protection to businesses certainly cannot be overlooked. It is a vital asset that offers a competitive advantage, financial returns, and increased valuation of the company. However, it is advised to assess the advantages securing a patent would offer v/s exploring other economical options.  

Some of the techniques elaborated upon, like licensing/cross-licensing, are an excellent alternative to owning a patent. In scenarios where owning the patent is absolutely essential, one can refer to the above-mentioned tips to bring down patent protection expenses and derive maximum value from their patented tech.  

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