13 Replies Latest reply on Oct 2, 2017 12:06 PM by Christian Chu

    Are patents worth the cost and effort?

    Jim Steinmeyer

      I saw a comment about someone possibly not getting credit in a patent on another thread and wanted to see what the community opinion on this was.

           I know there is often value placed on if someone has obtained a patent but in my own observation it seems like a competitor can make a very minute change and get around many patents. Then the only people that really see much benefit from a patent are the patent attorneys.

            Am I completely off base on this or is there real value to patents?

        • Re: Are patents worth the cost and effort?
          Dan Pihlaja

          Wow.....that's a big can of worms!!

          From the (very) little research that I have done with patents....you might be right.   Seems easy to get around.

          • Re: Are patents worth the cost and effort?
            John Stoltzfus

            Awesome discussion Jim Steinmeyer

             

            There are definitely pluses when it comes to patents, but the bottom line is a patent is just worth the amount of money you have to defend it.  I've heard of a lot of horror stories in the past where car companies would copy patents and then fight the poor guy that did the actual design.

             

            I have my name on one patent where me and a friend of mine were suckered to sign over, unfortunately nothing went anywhere and I still would love to see the equipment in the industry, there is still a need, however I have another 10 years before the patent is void, (patent is good for 17 years, however you do have a chance to extend that), I would think there is a value in having a patent.

             

            Costs depend a lot on the type of Patent, not sure how many types of patents there are anymore.  You need to do a patent search, preliminary, yourself if you want and then you should hire a Patent Attorney to do the search for you.  I've done a few for my clients years ago and I had three different projects that stopped because of the patent search coming back with an actual patent in the patent office.  One thing that I found out was there are a lot of people across the USA and the world, so it's a darn good chance someone thought of it before and actually has a patent on it..  To do a good search you need to classify the item you want patented with the Government SIC Code, this helps to narrow your search in the patent office.

            • Re: Are patents worth the cost and effort?
              Dennis Dohogne

              Jim Steinmeyer wrote:

               

              I saw a comment about someone possibly not getting credit in a patent on another thread and wanted to see what the community opinion on this was.

              I know there is often value placed on if someone has obtained a patent but in my own observation it seems like a competitor can make a very minute change and get around many patents. Then the only people that really see much benefit from a patent are the patent attorneys.

              Am I completely off base on this or is there real value to patents?

              The short is Yes or No.  The longer answer is that it depends.  IF the patent is well written then it is hard for someone to get around it.  However, some patent agents or attorneys do not care about the business side of things, at least not yours.  They can get a patent by writing very narrow claims and the patent will issue, but it can be easy to defeat.

               

              Attached is an article I wrote years ago, but it is directly relevant to your question.

              • Re: Are patents worth the cost and effort?
                Dennis Dohogne

                Let me add that costs will vary greatly depending on who you use, the complexity, and your preparation.  Keep in mind that nobody knows your invention like you do.  Your first and most important job in dealing with a patent attorney (they cost more than a patent agent, but are worth it IMO) is to educate them really well on your patent.  I write separate documents describing how my invention does something different from others.  These even cite the text and images from the other patents.

                 

                In short, if there is a good business reason to get a patent then do it right.  The last utility patent I did cost me about $10k.  The Canadian version just issued and the European ones are in-work.  Those all cost extra.  A company I am about to license this to gave me crap because I had decided not to file in Japan, Taiwan, and China.  But I have enhancements that we'll file patents on and include those countries.  I'm named on about twelve patents with several more pending.

                • Re: Are patents worth the cost and effort?
                  Michael Van Dorp

                  That is also my general feeling towards patents.

                   

                  However, I would say it depends on the scale of business that the patent may afford. How well developed is the market? Is the patent easy to circumvent? Are there already similar patents that your's is essentially just one of the bypasses of?

                   

                  It seems one of the best identifiers is how much competition is there? For example I know there are a lot of enforced patents in the snowmobiling powersports industry which I feel is largely because there are really only 4 companies that have the specialty to develop products for the market. A good example of a patent that was very worthwhile: https://www.google.com/patents/US7213669. It changed the concept of the product and provided a benefit that was noticeable to the consumer. By having the patent they were able to gain market share and prevent competition from being able to replicate it for ~4-5 years.

                   

                  If there is more competition it will take more enforcement and it is more likely that someone will find a way to by-pass your patent.

                   

                  Just my 2 cents.

                  • Re: Are patents worth the cost and effort?
                    S. Casale

                    Ask Tesla...

                     

                     

                     

                    See What FORD and EDISON thought of him...

                      • Re: Are patents worth the cost and effort?
                        S. Casale

                        Also...

                        Ask Coca-Cola. They use the patent pending so they never have to worry about it's expiration.

                         

                        Without looking it up Patent Pending is more powerful then actually having a patent, as far as I recall, due to expiration...

                          • Re: Are patents worth the cost and effort?
                            John Stoltzfus

                            Not only is Patent Pending good in that regard, the most important part is the non-disclosure aspect of patent pending.  Once a patent is granted it is public information and open for the spawning of ideas...    I always mentioned to potential clients, if they get down the road that far, try to keep it in the Patent Pending status as long as possible...

                              • Re: Are patents worth the cost and effort?
                                Dennis Dohogne

                                Patent Pending is a status, not the property rite that a patent is.  I have seen a lot of licensing contracts written on something that is in the pending status.  The royalty is usually one-third of the royalty granted for when the patent issues.  You cannot sue anyone for infringement of your patent pending invention.  The very fact that it is pending only means you have applied for a patent.  There are no guarantees it will ever be issued.

                                 

                                There is now something called a Provisional Patent Application, often referred to as a PPA.  I think it should be referred to as a ppA, with the emphasis on the A for Application.  A lot of people erroneously say they have a "provisional patent" when they in fact do not have a patent, only an application.  There is no such thing as a provisional patent.  The ppA allows someone to file a relatively simple document and establish a filing date.  Since we (the U.S.) are now a "first to file" system this early filing date becomes important.  The ppA has a life of one year, during which you can legally claim patent pending for your invention.  Within this one-year window you should turn the ppA into a formal utility patent application.  The USPTO never looks at the ppA unless and until after the formal application is filed.  Eighteen months after the initial filing of the ppA if it is turned into a formal patent application the application is published on the USPTO's website.  US Published Application Full-Text Database Boolean Search   This site is updated every Thursday with newly published applications.  They update the site for issued patents every Tuesday:  US Patent Full-Text Database Boolean Search

                                 

                                If you want learn more then I suggest subscribing to the daily blog from IPWatchdog.com | Patents & Patent Law - Patents, Software Patents, Patent Applications & Patent Law You can also search their site for previous articles.  These are superb and short, a very valuable resource.

                                  • Re: Are patents worth the cost and effort?
                                    John Stoltzfus

                                    Thanks for the explanation, we have a very good patent attorney in this area, and I had multiple meetings with him over the years, but it's been a while. 

                                    • Re: Are patents worth the cost and effort?
                                      Dennis Dohogne

                                      I wrote the above to clarify what is kept secret and when regarding a patent application.  You can tell the USPTO at the time of filing that you do not want the application to be made public, otherwise it will be published 18 months from its filing date.

                                       

                                      However, in the comments above about royalties being about 1/3 while in the patent pending stage, the company you license the invention to will want to see the application, even if it is not available to the public.  They are not about to pay for something if they think the application will not turn into a patent or if they think the patent will be weak.

                              • Re: Are patents worth the cost and effort?
                                Jim Steinmeyer

                                Just for reference,

                                The company I work at is in litigation over a patent we filed a few years ago. A competitor later came out with a similar design where they angled the paddles about 5° and changed nothing else. We filed a cease-n-desist which they ignored  and then we filed a law suit. The suit has been on going since before I came here (2 years ago) and won't go to court for at least another 8 months.

                                 

                                Seems to me that the only ones benefiting from this are the attorneys and "expert" witnesses on both sides.

                                • Re: Are patents worth the cost and effort?
                                  Christian Chu

                                  It's a long process (at leas a yr) and costly. We did all the patents to prevent the copy from our competitor and it works well - here is the one

                                  The most important is the writing part from the lawyer (make sure to hire a good patent lawyer) which stops any design similar to the patent. AFAIK, we and our competitors always search the patent for the design to avoid the lawsuits