Patent or Perish: An Entrepreneurs’ Guide to Survival

Aug 31, 2016

You’re a busy entrepreneur. You’re working on developing your product or service, refining your go to market strategy and financial model, building a team trying to pitch to as many investors as you can and basically head every department it takes to run a company – sales, marketing, product design, operations, accounting, HR … you get the picture. You’ve got so much to do you don’t have time, or money, to hire an attorney or in house counsel. You’ll file a patent later. What do really you have to lose by waiting if the business isn’t even built yet? Well, pretty much everything. OK, don’t hit the panic button quite yet …

So here are my top 5 tips and things to consider about patents and how they can make or break your business:

Patents are product protection and essential for commercialization

Patents provide you with exclusive and specifically defined property rights granted by the government. As with real property, like a house, people can’t just walk in the front door and take up residence. No one can make your product or reverse engineer it. And if they do, you have a real remedy in Federal Court. Once you’ve filed a patent application you can talk about your product, present it, market it, and sell it, and, once you have an issued patent, you have a way to stop someone from copying you. Also – being first matters. Since the America Invents Act passed, the right basically goes to whoever filed the patent application first, NOT who invented the product first.

Patents are levers to attract investors and licensees

You need revenue or investment to grow your company and, since a patent protects an actual property right, you can use that to help grow your company. A patent is a great bargaining chip to attract venture capital or secure financing. A patent also allows you to license out your product for a cost, similar to renting your house and getting a monthly payment from tenants.

Think globally when considering where to file your patent applications

File patent applications in at least the major commercial markets where you expect to have sales. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s often overlooked. With markets more connected globally than ever before entrepreneurs need to think strategically about where to file for patent protection.

Work with experienced patent counsel

It may seem like you can just file a patent application on your own, but patent guidelines and laws are constantly changing. And if you do business globally, like almost every business these days, the laws change from country to country. Experienced patent attorneys navigate these ever-changing waters on a daily basis and can help you avoid common pitfalls and keep you on top of changes.

Patents are key business tools to success

Invest in getting your patents right. You’ve spent countless hours on your education and training and even more time and energy in creating your unique product. You wouldn’t insure a $50-million-dollar home for $100,000 so don’t ignore investment in getting your patents right. You may think you need to invest in a sales team or an awesome marketing campaign, but get the patent right and you have a whole world of opportunity for your business.

Want to learn more about IP? Join me for CONNECT’s FrameWorks Workshop: IP Track. Annually I lead four in depth sessions on IP purely aimed at entrepreneurs like you with all the insider info, tips, and things to watch out for. Upcoming FrameWorks IP Track include: 

  • Business Aspects of Patents on February 7, 2018
  • Enforcement of Patents March 7, 2018

John Wetherell has over 25 years’ experience in intellectual property law. His counseling experience includes intellectual property acquisition, transactional due diligence, patent infringement and validity analyses, freedom-to-operate opinions, as well as licensing and strategic counseling. Dr. Wetherell’s patent prosecution experience includes obtaining US and foreign protection in biotechnology areas such as molecular biology, immunology, nanotechnology, medical diagnostics, microbiology and pharmacology. He also evaluates intellectual property portfolios for both companies and investors.

Read John’s Full Bio Here