5 Patent Pitfalls for Start-ups

1. Launching or pitching before considering patent protection

This is probably the most common error that I see from start-ups, especially from those in the early stages.

One of the golden rules in patents is to get a patent application filed before disclosing the idea to the public. If you publicly disclose an idea before filing a patent for it, this can have serious consequences on your chances of protecting the idea later on.

Therefore, you should always at least consider protecting your idea before it is made available to the public. This will allow you to make an informed decision about whether to file a patent application or not, rather than letting the opportunity pass.

You may decide that filing a patent application isn’t the way forward, but in cases where protection is important it is vital to have this conversation before it’s too late!

2. Dismissing an idea for not being inventive enough to be patentable

For an invention to be patentable it needs to be ‘inventive’. Often inventors think that their inventions aren’t inventive enough to be patentable. However, they usually think this because they are quite inventive people.

In practice, the legal threshold for ‘inventiveness’ can be lower than most people would assume. So – don’t write your ideas off as being unpatentable before consulting a specialist. You might be underestimating the value of what you have created.

3. Assuming that patents are only for established companies

Established companies usually have the luxury of investing heavily in intellectual property protection because they have the budget for it. However, this does not mean that patents and intellectual property protection are the preserve of large companies. On the contrary, it is quite possible for start-ups to protect their intellectual property in a cost-effective manner.

A start-up’s intellectual property can be their most valuable asset, particularly for tech start-ups. Therefore, it is essential that this asset is protected in order to avoid being shunted out of the market by an established company with more resources at its disposal.

There are ways of minimising the cost of patent protection in the early stages. For example, costs can be reduced by focusing on only the most important inventions and the most valuable markets.

4. Thinking that patents are too expensive to enforce

The media often reports on high profile patent cases between the likes of Samsung and Apple, where there are huge sums of money involved. Although bringing a case to court is expensive, the majority of disputes are settled outside of the court room, particularly in the UK. This reduces the cost of enforcement significantly.

In some cases, a patent can act as a deterrent to competitors without the patent holder being aware. For example, before going ahead with a new product, a competing company may conduct what is known as a ‘freedom-to-operate’ excerise. This should alert the competitor to possible patent threats, and on the basis of these threats the competitor may be put off from entering the market.

So – sometimes a patent is doing its job without you even knowing or having to do anything once it’s in force!

5. Attempting to draft a patent without professional advice

I have seen a broad range of patent applications written by non-patent attorneys over the years. Some are decent attempts, others less so. However, in each case the patent application would face an uphill struggle to grant, and even if the application were granted, the patent might fail to properly protect the invention.

Another problem with not getting it right from the outset, is that problems with a patent application can be very difficult to rectify later. Most often sorting out any problems costs more than getting it right in the first place.

So – always consult a patent attorney before deciding on writing your own patent application. It might save you money in the long run!

Photo credit http://www.michael-wilson.com

under licence https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/



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