Patents... things you need to know...
Are they really worth it ?
There is saying within the new product development industry “patent protection is only as good as the size of your bank balance”.
The first mistake people make when applying for a patent, is to think it provides an exclusive right to pursue their project without interference. It does not. Patents are a sword and not a shield, and whilst providing the right to attack someone who attempts to infringe technological rights, it does not ‘prevent’ someone from infringing the rights should they wish to do so.
Patent enforcement is extremely expensive and a high stakes game. Only those with substantial bank balances tend to be the ones who play. The problem is, all big technological product / design holders know this.
The second mistake people make is to apply for a patent based on technology that has not been proven or developed. The problem here is, unless the technology has been proven or developed any description and claims will be based on assumptions and supposition and not specifications and facts – and it’s specifications and facts that form the basis of strong and robust IP.
"Be under no illusion if someone can breach your patent they will ! Only by employing the best will you get the best protection"
Are they worth the money ?
The answer is YES and NO. It all depends on the circumstances. For example…. if you have not developed your idea, do not have the resources to employ a patent agent and have no experience is drafting and writing patent, the question we would ask is - ‘what do you hope to achieve by filing a patent ?’ What is the point in compiling and filing a patent when there is no hope in capitalising from it.
Likewise, if you have commercially developed your idea, can employ a patent agent and have the resources to commercialise its potential, then a patent is of incredible value.
There is no law that dictates you have to use a patent agent to protect new technological rights. Anyone with an understanding of the process can independently compile and file a patent with the Patent Office. However just because you can, does not mean you should.
To become a patent agent / attorney a degree (at least a 2:1) is required in a science, engineering, technical or mathematics-based subject. The majority of recruits into the patent agent profession will also have a postgraduate qualification, such as a PhD or master’s degree. According to the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys, a third of patent agent trainees have PhDs, whilst another third have masters or postgraduate degrees. As it’s a legal based role, those who wish to become a patent agent also need to demonstrate passion and aptitude for law. To qualify, a trainee must pass vigorous qualifying exams before their name can be added to the statutory Register of Patent Attorneys. Patent agents are trained broadly across the range of intellectual property rights and have the same rights as solicitors and barristers to conduct litigation and act as advocates in the Patents County Court.
Patent agents are skilled people !
The issue we have in independently compiling and filing a patent is, unless you have the necessary experience and training, you simply will not have enough expertise to comprehensively compile the content to fully protect the technological rights i.e. prevent a skilled patent agent from circumnavigating around the patent.
Anyone who has ever succeeded in this business has at some point recognised their strengths, weaknesses and acknowledged the importance of employing best people.
You need to think the same.
If you cannot afford to appoint one
Obviously there is cost to use a patent agent – costs vary from practice to practice but you can reasonably expect to pay between £1500.00 to £5000.00 to file a full UK patent application.
Despite what some companies claim, commercial product development is a longwinded and expensive pastime.
Compiling and filing intellectual property is just one of a series of steps you need to take when commercialising a new idea (see Steps to Success). It is generally carried out after development design, prototyping and testing and before marketing.
What if you don’t have a spare £1500.00 / £5000.00, what do you do ?
The honest answer is to think very carefully before proceeding, because if you don’t have the money to cover patent agent costs, it's unlikely you have the money to pay for design, packaging, prototype production and testing. The essential elements you need to commercialise your project.