The Business of Patent Law

Small Companies Understand Patents – Mostly

After walking the Hardware Show last week and talking to many different people, the conversation often turned to patents and patent strategies when I handed them my business card. I am a sucker for a good inventor-makes-good story, and there were lots of them at the show.

On the whole, I was quite impressed with the basic understanding of almost everybody with regard to patents. Almost everybody understood the basic concept of protecting their intellectual property and the basic business strategies that go along with it.

However, after the basics were covered, many people had some rather fundamental questions, such as misunderstanding a PCT filing, improperly marking their products, and not knowing when and if they should file new patents to cover new ideas.

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Price Sensitivity to Patent Preparation and Prosecution

I had occasion to discuss pricing schemes with another practitioner last week, and I think it is a very interesting topic.

The value delivered by a patent practitioner should, under normal circumstances, far outweighs the costs. If a single invention is generally worth patenting, it should potentially generate hundreds of thousands, if not millions and millions of dollars. This is more true for the small startup company where the largest asset is one or two patents covering the core idea, as opposed to the very large corporations who have portfolios of thousands of patents. The same holds true for independent inventors with ideas that are commercially viable.

Given that an inventor has a potential of reaping millions of dollars from their invention, does the price really matter for the patent?

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The Embedded Patent Attorney

There were a few comments on my post about lowering costs. Notably, Doug Sorcco suggested the concept of the embedded patent attorney and Matt Buchanan added some comments. Doug and Matt both describe the patent attorney who knows the insides of your business, walks the halls, and attends both business and engineering meetings. No surprise here, I like the idea.

This is one of the most important ways to lower patent costs, and as Doug suggests, one reason for firing your patent attorney if he/she does not do this for free.

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