Ideas are the lifeblood of a company, and most small businesses recognize the need to protect their best ideas, products and services from competitors. These days, it is becoming more and more important to patent your intellectual property rights given the increasing prevalence of patent troll attacks, in which a wealthy entity acquires patent rights just so they can enforce these rights against others. Patent law firm Fisher Adams Kelly states very clearly that “Protecting your intellectual property prevents others from taking advantage of your hard work”. There are no black and white rules as to whether or not you should get a particular piece of intellectual property patented. Here are a few guidelines that can help you to decide whether or not patenting a particular business idea is the right way forward.
Identify your goals
The fact is, registering patents costs money, and it might not make commercial sense to have every business idea patented. You need to first identify the commercial goals of your business and then work out how much you are prepared to spend to achieve those goals. Determine as well the possible consequences of not filing a patent. You can then determine how much you are willing to spend on patents. For instance, if you own a company that relies on new technology to produce cutting edge electronics, the potential losses you might incur if you don’t patent a new invention could be devastating. The amount you would allot to patent registration would thus be high.
Do research on patent databases
Just because you’ve come up with a particular idea doesn’t mean nobody else has. Do a thorough search on the patent databases in the jurisdictions in which you want to register your patent to ensure nobody else has already patented the same idea, and also to ensure that you’re not unwittingly infringing someone else’s patent. Before you have filed an application, do your own searches. At a later stage you will need to engage the services of a professional.
Making a patent application
If you have determined that you would like to make a patent application, you should get professional advice to ensure you make the best possible application. Professional help is crucial as a poorly made application can mean that your idea is made public without receiving in turn the best possible level of protection, and can also leave you vulnerable to legal loopholes. A professional can offer advice on the wording and the type and level of detail to be included in your patent so that your idea receives the best possible level of protection. Once your provisional application has been filed, have your professional adviser perform an international patent search.
A good patent can be of great commercial value to a company. However, due to the costs of filing a patent you will need to make the final decision as to whether a patent is worth registering. Do the preliminary legwork yourself by determining whether or not filing a patent will be commercially beneficial and performing searches on patent databases. Once you have decided to go ahead and file a patent, obtain professional advice to ensure your idea receives maximum protection under patent law.
Joanne Poh is a freelance writer and commercial copywriter whose work has been published in a variety of print and digital media, including newspapers and mobile applications. She holds an honors degree in law from the University of Melbourne and has worked as a property lawyer in Singapore. Poh writes for an array of commercial clients including Fisher Adams Kelly Trademark & Patent Attorneys. Image courtesy Rajiv Patel