Quiz post : – Relevance of Patents

In response to “post a topic and win big” contest, i received many queries through facebook messages, emails and blog comments. I hope to have properly answered all the readers questions. As far as contest goes, of all the topics posted by our readers we selected the question posted by one of the member.  The topic is relevant to all the beginners in this industry especially those who does not come from a legal background. I will be withholding the name of the winner for the sake of her privacy. I will contact her personally and awards her the prize as promised. I know you all want to know what her question was?

There is so many patents granted every year. How many of those patents are of actual importance ? Why patent offices grant patents to inventions which are of no use? What is the criteria that an inventor should follow to check whether he/she should file a patent for his invention or not?

The relevance of patent cannot be judged according to its application in real world or its usefulness to common man. Then what is the use of patent? To understand this First we need to understand what the patent actually is? This is an agreement between the government of the country with the inventor where the government allow the patentee to restrict others from using that invention in return the inventor has to share his knowledge and findings with the citizens of that country. The government does this so that citizen of his country can gain knowledge and improve their living standard. What seems of no use to us can be of great value to others. Knowledge is the key. Let us take an example to understand this. Suppose somebody invented “nails” and patented “nails”. In the process he shared all his knowledge with the citizen of the country. Now everyone is using it in the country and somehow it becomes a very popular product. Every body is using it for one or the other purpose, somebody is using it to hang clothes, somebody for building wooden structure etc. But let us suppose nobody is using “hammer” for nailing or think as if hammer does not exist at that time. Somebody is using some utensil to nail it; somebody is using bricks to hammer it on to the surface. Meanwhile someone comes up with an idea of “hammer”. Hammer is invented. Now think how easier it is to nail the “nails” to the surface with the help of a hammer. We can in a way say that patent of nails helped in invention of hammer. One hammer improved the working standard of person’s earlier working with different tools to get the job done. Later on people realized that hammer can also be used in different application like checking the breakage of bones by doctors. Thus hammer can at times be critical in saving someone’s life also. Though a “hammer” and “nail” are two different entities but one came into existence only due to knowledge shared by the inventor of first. Suppose the inventor of nail would not have shared his knowledge then in that way application of nails would have been restricted to carpenter community and secondly hammer would never have been invented.
I also first thought why one should file a patent for petty things like safety pins or straws etc. But when I further studied I realized sharing of knowledge is increasing of knowledge. Government does a great work by implementing patent system in the country. This not only helps in preventing interest of patentee but also helps in overall increasing the knowledge of citizens. I would also like to discuss this point (relevance of patents) from industrial point of view. Why patenting is essential for a company?

To look at this let us explore the technical definition of patent. A more technical definition of patent would be, PATENT is a right given to a patent holder by the country, by virtue of which he can prevent others from selling, importing, using, manufacturing or offering for sale of the patented invention within that country. The patented invention can be manufactured only when the inventor give a permission to do so to the manufacturer.

The question now arises if the government of India is not giving any kind of monetary benefit to the inventor then why he shall file a patent and share his knowledge, expertise on the matter with the whole world, in-fact the government is charging an inventor for filing a patent and even for the duration for which the inventor wants that patent to be in his name (Inventor pays money to maintain his name in the record of patent office).Then why?

The basic reason why inventors/ companies go for patent protection is for the exclusive right that they hold over their invention for a specific period. But besides this obvious reason, there are other reasons why an inventor/ assignee would want to patent his invention.

Before we discuss the other reasons, let us first look at what rights do the term “exclusive right” of the inventor encompasses. Exclusive rights means the inventor wields monopoly rights over his invention, such that he can stop others from using his invention without his permission. This, interpreted in another sense, would mean he can gain royalties from persons who use his invention. Royalties is one reason why many inventors/ companies want to patent.

Besides this privilege of exclusivity, many companies use the patent system as a weapon of defense also, i.e. they patent to stay ahead of others besides being able to stop others from overtaking their progress.

Sometimes, a single novel invention is all it takes for a company to leap light years ahead of others. In extreme cases, a single patent had started up entire industries- like the xerography technology started by the company, Xerox Corporation.

As a start-up company, having a patent brings an advantage of the company’s ability to rope in investors. Investors would always look for signs of growth, of knowing that his investment would be protected in a company and he would get some returns out of it. Companies with strong patents would always have a unique position in the market. This would in turn rope in investments to your company.

Nowadays, most companies understand the importance of IP valuation and have IP portfolios to manage their IP assets. Valuation is important for investment- to show the investors the strength of the company’s IP; and also for licensing and Mergers & Acquisition- to realize the full potential of the patents.

The one major hurdle in the patent procedure is that patenting is an expensive affair. It becomes an even more expensive affair when you want to patent in several countries; since, unlike the general notion, patents are territorial and are not protected internationally.

Hence, one should identify in which inventions to invest money and which to forsake. To estimate whether one should go for patenting or not, the question to be asked is- how successful will the patented product be? If it is successful enough to be wanted by the competitors, then it is worth protecting. If it can give a reasonable profit by licensing it to others, then also it is worth protecting. However, if it gives a very meager amount of profits, then there is no point in investing money trying to patent it. Commercially if you think, you will be investing anywhere around 20 to 40 thousand rupees to get a patent filed and granted and if you personally feel you would buy that invention from market my suggestion would be go for the patent. If you think you don’t want to buy it at all then don’t go for its patent. You can even do a market survey beforehand and analyze the viability of the product then decide whether to go for a patent or not.

Though patenting might give your company very many advantages, yet before going forth, you should fully realize the value of your patent, the equation of your investment to the value you will receive from your patent; and once sure of the value of your patent, go forth investing in it.

Note: This article has been compiled with inputs from various persons and various resources like other blog, websites etc. If any one has any objection regarding the post please notify the post will be modified with immediate effect.

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