November 30, 1999 in SBIR/STTR News

Patents and Potential

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“Well of course people want my innovation!  I did a patent search, and there’s nothing else like it on the market!”

That is not always an accurate correlation, but I hear it often. 

Having a patent does not prevent anyone from developing a product like yours. 

A patent is a legal document which gives you the right to have a monopoly on your product.  IF someone else develops and tries to sell a product that is like yours, then you have the legal right to sue them and make them stop.  It doesn’t prevent them; it just gives you legal claws if they do.  You will still have to proactively monitor the market to make sure no one IS infringing.  If you do find something, the burden of proof and cost is on you—you must incur the time to research and the funds to bring about a potentially lengthy legal fight.

Being first to patent also does not automatically mean that you have a market—there might not be any patents because there ISN’T a market for your idea.   With the rising costs of obtaining patents (U.S. as well as various international), it would be worth your time to investigate whether patents are the best protection (i.e. something like a trade secret might be more appropriate) and if there is enough market pull to actually pay for the protection.

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