You Have a Patent! Now What?
Episode #9 of the course Patent basics: for inventors and decision-makers by Clint R. Morin
At this point, we’ve covered basic requirements for obtaining a patent as well as some practical considerations for the patenting process. Today, we will talk about what you can do after you successfully obtain a patent!
If you remember, Lesson 2 discussed how a patent is a right to exclude others from making, using, or selling your invention. Once your patent issues, you can begin to use or enforce those rights. What you do with those rights can vary significantly. Of course, one of the ways you can use patent rights is to sue others to stop making, using, or selling your invention. But lawsuits generally only happen when other attempts to work together break down!
Policing Your Rights
Once you have an allowed patent, you may take steps to ensure that others aren’t using your patented invention. For example, you may monitor competitors or others in an industry to identify those who have products or services that fall within the scope of at least one of the claims in your patent. Once you find them, you can approach them to request that they stop using your invention and/or to pursue a licensing deal where they are required to pay you when they make, use, or sell something that includes your invention.
You can also sell your patent alone or as part of a technology or company sale. Your patent rights could be extremely valuable, and others may be willing to pay a lot of money for them in a purchase.
To help in the policing of your rights, you will generally want to provide notice to others that you have a patent through marking and/or advertising. For example, if you have a patent on a physical device, you will probably want to mark the physical device when you sell or manufacture it. You may provide a list of applicable patents or a web link to a list of your patents within an “About” section of software or a website. If you do this right, you will let others know that you have patents and that they may not be able to use some of your inventions in their own products.
Maintaining Your Patent Rights
It is important to remember that your patent rights still need to be maintained by paying what are often called “maintenance fees.” It is not that complicated, but you need to periodically pay fees to keep your application in force. One of the reasons that governments require these fees is to declutter the patent landscape from unused or non-valuable patents. The reasoning may go something like this: if the patent isn’t worth more than the fees, then let’s get it out of the way! Also, maintenance fees are an excuse to earn more money. In the United States, the Patent Office makes more money than it costs to run. And I wouldn’t be surprised if this were the case in most countries.
Pursuing Additional Patents
After you get your patent allowed, you may think that you could have obtained more favorable claims or claims for a different invention. (Remember, the claims define what your invention is and what you can keep others from doing/selling.) You may also have more than one invention described in your patent application. In some cases, the patent office limits how many claims you can have in an application. In these situations, you may want to file a continuation application to pursue other patent claims.
Obtaining a patent may be a significant step in achieving your business plan. It can help investors or acquirers feel more comfortable with your business and may put up roadblocks for competitors. It is an achievement worth celebrating!
However, getting a patent on any invention is not the same as getting a patent on the right invention for your circumstances. This is where your patent strategy will come into play. Your patent strategy will account for the details we’ve discussed thus far, while also accounting for your business goals. We’ll discuss patent strategy in the next and final lesson!
“Guide to Intellectual Property: What it is, how to protect it, how to exploit it” by The Economist, Stephen Johnson
Notice: This course and its lessons are not, nor are they intended to be, legal or other professional advice. Please seek the advice of a competent attorney or professional for your specific situation.
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