Use Patents to Protect a Business, Not to Protect an Idea

Are you selecting the right things to patent? It is okay to start with the Big Inventive Idea, but look at the business as a whole to select what actually gets protected.

People come to me with inventive concepts that they want to patent. The engineer or inventor in them relishes the “cool factor” that comes from that incredible moment of conception of the concept. My experience is that the excitement and euphoria over the invention is often palatable years afterward. In fact, there are several of my own inventions that to this day bring goosebumps when I think of that very moment when I came up with the concept.

These concepts are often the ones written up in invention disclosures or used by the independent inventor to start a business.

As with the case of business method patents, protecting an idea may come in many different forms. The pure ‘business method’ idea may be protect-able as a method claim, a product claim, a product by process claim, a device/system claim, or any other claim that makes sense for the situation.

By looking at the entire business model with the client, we can often brainstorm several different ways to protect a business using patents. Note that I am more focused on protecting a business rather than the inventive concept.

I generally look at the entire business and try to find the few key areas that are unique about the client’s products, their services, and the way they deliver their products and services. We evaluate those unique areas asking ourselves how much of a competitive advantage would it be if we could prevent competitors from doing those key things, and how broad or narrow we think we could get a patent on that concept.

The amount of competitive advantage is directly proportional to the (short term) value of a potential patent.

In many cases, a creative company may have several such ideas that could be a competitive advantage to them. These are the first things a company or inventor needs to try to patent from the outset. These concepts are often the first layer of protection that a company may seek, and there may be additional concepts that are patentable for other business reasons.