How to Ensure Your Patent is Legally Protected

Patents are becoming more complex and dynamic as the demand for innovation rises. On the other hand, increasingly stringent laws create more protective environments for inventors and innovators.

Patents are limited monopolies granted by governments and legal bodies to companies or individuals to encourage innovation. Courts approve these exclusive rights to prevent or exclude other people from manufacturing or profiting from your inventions for a period of time. With the US, the term of patents is 20 years from filing for utility patents and 15 years for design patents.

If your patented idea becomes successful, competitors will enter the market. This is not necessarily bad as competition means innovation and it increases the market value of your idea. Making sure your patent is legally protected can mitigate risks of litigation and minimize the dangers of theft. And here’s how:

Take the higher ground

Theft or patent workarounds are a reality. While novelty is a requirement for issuing a patent, many companies have found ways to create a similar product through different processes or designs. Big companies even hire engineers and designers to work around patents without triggering an infringement.

Sue them, right? Not exactly. IP Watchdog highlights that new laws on infringement have made defending patents more costly and lengthier. The key is being proactive. Try looking for other similar patents and improve on the point where your patent diverges. It will help you create stronger variations to your intellectual property and broaden its coverage—mitigating risks of other inventors designing around it.

Prepare your defense

First of all, if you’re being sued, it’s too late. The costs for patent litigations alone can put a small enterprise or a startup out of business. Getting good and reliable firms to defend your patent from day one is a must.

A recent study cited by Bloomberg Law suggests that the median cost for patent litigations have dropped by 250% for cases with $1 million to $10 million at risk and 20% for those with more than $25 million at risk. The advent of tools, which automate and streamline discovery—which typically covers 20% to 50% of the litigation cost—has prompted this decline. This is why Special Counsel explains that it is important for businesses to have expertise in new legal areas like eDiscovery. Being able to cut down the sheer volume of discovery requests alone can increase your chances of winning while reducing your overhead costs.

Add more value to your patent

Patents are often targeted by patent asserting entities, more commonly known as patent trolls, because they’re lucrative. Portfolio PAEs hold sizeable patents for licensing, according to the Federal Trade Commission, and are generally less at risk of counter lawsuits as they don't manufacture.

Adding value to your patent can also increase your legal protection. Filing for new use cases or new processes in your patent can broaden your patent portfolio and support your patent’s protection. This can also be a way for you to potentially extend the terms of your patent when it’s nearing the end of its life cycle. Better patent portfolios also increase your negotiating position in settlements like cross-licensing.

While patents are certainly becoming more complex, others are envisioning new ways of protecting inventions. Initiatives like Trade Secrets which use distributed ledgers to protect patents could go a long way to providing better proprietary protection in the future.

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