So you got a patent. Now what?
Sometime ago, I attended a pitch session where start-ups presented themselves to investors and other delegates. It is mindboggling what products are going to reach the market in the near future (but that is a topic for another time). What amazed me, next to the innovation, was the relative naivety of these young entrepreneurs and CEOs when it comes to IP, patents in particular. Upon asking them about IP, many simply answered: “I have a patent pending or granted so I am fine”. In many cases when asked what they are going to do with this patent, an awkward silence and quick “I need to go somewhere” followed.
I don’t blame them. After all, entrepreneurs know that a patent is to prevent others from copying what you do, and once the patent is granted, you’re all set. That what IP is for right, blocking others? Think again-here are some examples of how IP should feature in a company’s business plan.
"Know thy market and competitor"
Yes, your patent may give you meaningful exclusivity in the market. But did you know that almost all patent data is public, so a wealth of market and competitor data can be freely extracted from this data? Look at websites like patentlyapple.com, which speculates what the tech firm’s next big thing is likely to be. How did they get this information? Just type Google Patents. Knowing how your competitor’s technology works is only a few clicks away. How does this relate to your patent? Your attorney has carefully chosen their words so your patent will yield the best protection possible. Those keywords can also be used to perform a competitor keyword search.
But are you really going to read all those documents found by the search paragraph by paragraph (written in legal jargon)? There is an alternative way to review this information visually-as a patent landscape. Patent landscaping is a tool to graphically represent patent data. The landscape can be used to provide valuable insights into freedom to operate, competitor technology and how your patents are positioned in the market
Getting a return on investment
So, now you understand the landscape that your technology sits in, you should be in a better position to think about exploiting the IP to bring in revenue. You may initially think of licensing your technology. However a potential licensor may not be as obvious as you think. Let’s explain this with an example. Company X, with a highly specialised IP portfolio (in the flow dynamics sector) explored the option to use their IP in other market sectors. Landscape analysis revealed that several of their patents were relevant to the vacuum industry. A license agreement was agreed with a company in this sector, generating new revenue. It pays to discuss license options with IP specialists.
Maintaining patents can become extremely expensive. If you’re a tech company, you are bound to have a growing patent portfolio, with costs increasing quickly. To a large extent, these costs are predictable. Say you start with an initial UK filing, followed by a PCT application and national phase applications in the USA, Canada, Europe (i.e. Germany & France), China and Korea. Your attorney should be able to provide you with highly accurate predictions of the costs to maintain these patents for the next 5-10 years. Wouldn’t that make your life easier when drawing up your 5-year budget plans?
I hope these 3 examples will make you dust off that patent, put it on the agenda of your next management team meeting and call your Attorney or IP specialist.