By Christian van der Wath, patent specialist at African IP law firm, Von Seidels
In the world of innovation, the word “patent” conjures images of game-changing breakthroughs and soaring success stories. However, it also carries a reputation for being costly and potentially diverting resources from critical areas like marketing and product development. So, is it worth investing in patent protection, and what untapped benefits might it hold for your business?
Understanding Patents: At its core, it is a limited monopoly granted by the state to an inventor or another person entitled to the invention (patentee) in exchange for a full disclosure of the invention to the public. It is an exclusionary right which gives the entitled person the right to exclude any other person from making, using, exercising, disposing of, offering to dispose of, or importing the invention. However, it’s the patentee’s responsibility to enforce these rights.
Key Requirements: To be patentable, an invention must meet three key criteria: absolute novelty (it must be new worldwide), inventiveness (not obvious to skilled persons in the field), and usefulness (provides a benefit).
A Global Landscape: It’s important to note that there’s no such thing as an “international patent.” To secure protection in various regions or countries, you must register patents individually. There are certain mechanisms at your disposal which help to acquire patents in different countries. If you would like to know more about these mechanisms, please visit Von Seidels and contact any of our patent attorneys.
The Hidden Value: Patents can offer more than just legal safeguards. For larger enterprises, patents can help to secure a competitive edge and deter rivals from poaching their inventions. For start-ups, on the other hand, patents can play an important role in attracting investments and building a client base.
Attracting Investments: Acquiring investments mainly includes receiving funding from investors who tend to be careful with their investments. Investors value reliability and security. Patents can provide this by showcasing your commitment to innovation and protecting your intellectual property. This assurance can make your venture more appealing to cautious investors seeking profitable returns.
Beyond Protection: Patenting an invention can certainly give the entitled person a competitive market advantage. However, there are many more business opportunities accompanying patents. Patents can open doors to lucrative licensing agreements. In such arrangements, the patent owner (licensor) licenses their patent rights to another party (licensee), who can then utilise the patented technology. This can lead to a passive income stream for the patentee. Licensing agreements can also prove invaluable in infringement scenarios, where a smaller enterprise lacks the financial means to litigate against a larger infringing competitor. In such cases, approaching a third party for assistance can level the playing field.
The Benefits of Licensing: Licensing agreements come with a host of advantages. They allow licensors to expand into new markets, leveraging the expertise and distribution channels of licensees. Risks and development costs are shared, lightening the financial load for licensors and expediting product launches. Access to specialised knowledge and resources from licensees can turbocharge technology development. Licensing also opens the door to combining different patented technologies, fostering innovation. It enables global expansion, boosts reputation through reputable partners, and allows licensors to focus on core competencies while licensees handle commercialisation. Diversification reduces dependence on a single product or market, and win-win collaborations drive common goals. Licensing agreements can even mandate patent maintenance for ongoing technology protection. Moreover, underutilised patents can become a source of income, further benefiting patent owners.
Licensing agreements offer a multitude of advantages. They enable licensors to expand their technology into new markets, harnessing the expertise and distribution channels of licensees. By sharing risks and development costs, licensees reduce the financial burden on licensors and accelerate product launches.
In light of these multifaceted benefits, it’s clear that acquiring a patent for your invention goes beyond mere protection. It can empower your business to stop competitors from encroaching on your territory and enable smoother entry into global markets by attracting potential licensees. When pitching your business to investors, highlighting this strategic approach may just give you the edge needed to secure their support. So, while patents may seem expensive initially, their long-term advantages far outweigh the costs.
If you would like advice on your options, we would be happy to assist you.
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