Every year, thousands of patents are filed in the United States. Out of these, less than 60% of them get approved, and an even greater percentage fail to be commercialized. This has led a lot of inventors and the public alike to wonder if there is any merit to obtaining a patent.
Obtaining a patent is a process steeped in tedious and technical activities that can take years to be completed. The degree of complexity involved is largely dependent on the type of patent you want to file for and sometimes, on how waterproof your documents are.
For people who are filing for the first time, the risk of abandonment is high. It is little wonder many inventors in states like California consider hiring some other the best patent lawyer San Diego has to offer.
However strenuous the process of obtaining a patent, you must decide if the cost of protecting your intellectual property far outweighs the inconvenience of filing for and obtaining a patent. In this article, we have highlighted the benefits and drawbacks of obtaining a patent.
Benefits of obtaining a patent
Credit for ingenuity
Many innovators want to be recognized for their input in their chosen fields. When they undergo the process of creating a product, especially if it is disruptive in relevant industries, they want to be acknowledged as the originators of such products.
Even if oral records and the public, in general, identify you as the innovator of a product, failure to patent it puts your idea at risk of being stolen and claimed by another legally. In obtaining a patent, you protect your claim to your intellectual property and/or creation.
Grants exclusive rights
Obtaining a patent for your product grants you the exclusive right to make, use, sell, import and export it. This legal right granted to you by patenting your invention also means that nobody can use or sell your invention without getting permission from you.
These exclusive rights also give you a monopoly on the market that your patent applies to. This can be profitable if your invention has widespread utility. It means you can dominate the market without fear of someone else recreating your invention and taking control of a large market share.
Additionally, as a patent holder, you can get your patent licensed. Acquiring a license allows you to grant any interested party, called the licensee, the right to use your invention for a price.
This licensed right of usage could be only for a specified period or for use in a few products. The specifics of the contract will be detailed in a licensing agreement. Also, you can receive royalty payments for your licensed patent.
In recent years, patents have carried the undertone of being synonymous with corporate greed and business competition. While this is only one aspect of getting a patent that a few people frown upon, it has the advantage of fueling growth.
The acquisition of a patent by an individual or business is sometimes an indicator that their industry competitors need to step up their innovation process. It can drive innovators to seek out ways to improve already-existing processes to be more efficient.
Obtaining a patent is also a good driver of economic growth. The existence of a patent in a particular region can attract investors who put in their resources. They do this to either promote industry growth through additional research or to commercialize the patent, increasing its value and making a profit.
Drawbacks of obtaining a patent
The complexity of the process
The process of obtaining a patent can be complex. From the stage of innovation to patent file approval, there is barely a moment of rest. For an invention to qualify for patency, it must be novel. This means it must solve a problem in a way that no other product does.
Sometimes, identifying this problem and clearly defining it can be the greatest of challenges. Wherein the problem has been defined, an innovator seeks out a ground-breaking solution to this problem and must, in the process, provide copious details of how that solution was arrived at.
This is what helps an invention meet the enablement rule, a USPTO requirement that must be met before a patent can be granted. The enablement rule ensures that the invention can be reproduced by another in the same industry using the methods you have stated.
This entire process involves a series of reviews and leads to the convolution of the process of obtaining a patent. But even more demanding than the difficulty of obtaining a patent is the time invested in the process. A patent application can take anything from two to four years. This is a lot of time for many to spend on seeking approval for one invention.
Another drawback to obtaining a patent is the fact that patents expire. For all the rigors of trying to get a patent application approved, a patent holder can only reserve the exclusive rights to their invention for a maximum period of 20 years.
The time limitation on a patent is dependent on the type of patent. Design patents expire after 15 years, while utility patents have a patent life of 20 years.
Patent filing is an expensive undertaking. From the cost of hiring a patent lawyer to the thousands of dollars needed to complete the process, funds are invested heavily in the process.
Also, an annual maintenance fee has to be paid for a utility patent (but none is paid for a design patent) so you can retain the right to enforce the rights of your patent to the fullest. This makes obtaining a patent a capital-intensive process.
Possible legal battles
It may be difficult to tell who is using your creation, what way they are using it, and where they are using it. But once they make their activities public, they become liable for infringement of the rights granted to you by your patent.
This could mean being caught up in legal battles to defend and enforce your rights against them. This involves a lot of lawsuits you may not be financially equipped for.
Filing for a patent means that you have to disclose technical details of your invention to the public after approval. While you reserve the exclusive right to use your invention as you deem fit, the public must have access to the workings of your product within months after approval.
Many patent holders do not want this, but it is a requirement for holding a patent. Just as there are benefits to filing a patent application, there are drawbacks. And as an innovator, you must decide on which weighs more than the other.