Advantages and Drawbacks of Patents

Protecting your company’s intellectual property is a top priority, but finding the best way to do so may be a challenge. When it comes to safeguarding inventions, one of the available options is to file for a patent.

Patents are granted through the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in order to allow you the exclusive right to produce, make, use, or sell an invention. They last for 20 years, during which those exclusive rights are legally enforceable.

Advantages of Patents

Patents have a number of advantages, the main one being that they allow you to be the only party who can profit from the production, use, or sale of your invention. The protections include reverse engineering, which means that if someone else manages to figure out how your invention works, they still cannot legally produce it themselves.

Another advantage is the fact that a patent can help startups secure investor financing for their company. Investors see patented inventions as more secure than un-patented ones and are therefore more likely to provide investment funds.

Finally, the protection afforded by a patent isn’t limited by your company’s internal security. It extends to all instances where someone might attempt to duplicate your invention.

Drawbacks of Patents

While patents can provide very strong IP protection, they aren’t perfect. One of the primary disadvantages of a patent is the fact that it requires a significant upfront investment. Filing the documentation needed to secure a patent can be a lengthy, tedious, and expensive process, particularly if you want to make absolutely certain your invention is protected.

Often, certain inventions may not be legally patentable, or it may be difficult to define your invention in such a way that it prevents other parties from getting away with creating something similar to it, but not enough to fall under patent protection.

Additionally, patents require you to make your invention and its workings public, which may not always be desirable. By making schematics public, it may be possible for your competitors to find workarounds that allow them to profit from your ideas while technically staying outside the reach of your patent. This is often a problem with software and technology.

A final downside is a fact that patents only last up to 20 years. Beyond that point, others can start producing your invention. Other options, such as keeping IP as a trade secret, allow you to protect it as long as you take reasonable measures to keep it secure.

Are Patents Worth It?

When determining whether you want to file for a patent for your invention, consider the following questions:

  • Is the invention legally patentable?
  • Would make my invention public compromise its value?
  • Are the filing costs justified?
  • Would I need exclusive rights for more than 20 years?
  • Have I the means to safeguard it as a trade secret instead?
  • How difficult is it to define the invention in a way that would prevent workarounds?
  • Do I need investment funds to produce my invention?

Naturally, a corporate attorney can help you answer these questions and determine whether patent protection is right for your situation.

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