Space is rapidly commercializing. In commercial markets, the protection of intellectual property is key to establishing and maintaining a competitive advantage. As space is increasingly reliant on computer-based systems, software protection has become a foremost concern. While copyrights have long been associated with the protection of software, copyrights alone fail to protect the functional aspects of code. Patents must be considered and utilized in conjunction with copyrights to provide companies with a defensible competitive advantage.
Space is a whole different ball game for IP rights. Securing IP rights means navigating a host of convoluted international rules and regulations, all of which are increasingly under enormous pressure to change as a result of both the commercialization of space and the population of space with myriad new members, facts which operate to continually morph the topology of evolving space law.
Patents, trademarks, and copyrights are commonly known as “intellectual property” or IP. As occasional high-profile lawsuits between large corporations illustrate, IP can be extremely valuable, causing companies to budget significant amounts of money to acquire, defend, and assert IP rights. The concept of IP can be controversial, prompting various constituencies to condemn the entire idea (e.g., as dampening innovation or hampering individuals and smaller entities), or to object to the vast sums spent on high-profile lawsuits and their resulting awards/settlement.
Software patents are a waste of time and money. Or are they? A well-quoted statistic states that 97% of all patents will fail to recoup their filing cost. It’s also been said that half of all businesses will fail within the first 5 years, and only one third will see their 10th anniversary. However, there are an estimated 100 million new tech startups each year.
“How do I valuate my various IP assets?” At the outset, we recognize you likely already appreciate the difficulty of answering this question from first-hand experience. IP valuation is a complex, multivariable task and an industry unto itself. That said, this task is not impossible and can be approached from a number of ways, as we now discuss.
Many clients ask this question no matter how many patents they already hold. Even for inside counsel at large companies or serial inventors who have been through the patent process end-to-end multiple times, the production timelines of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) are ever evolving.
The patent system receives a lot of criticism and it is not without its faults. But as a governmental program to advance technology, it’s hard to beat. To understand how it works and why investing in a well-drafted patent can help an organization reap significant rewards (or why a poorly drafted patent may fall on its face) consider this real-world example. Most of us attribute the birth of powered aviation to Wilbur and Orville Wright.
For most, the topic of intellectual property (IP) is a hot mess of “I-don’t-knows” conflated with “I-don’t-cares.” But it shouldn’t be. Knowing what IP is and how to protect it is fundamental to most businesses’ success, whether they know it or not. A common trap related to this attitude is to “trip over dollars to pick up dimes.” Especially for startups – for whom “keeping the lights on” trumps “protecting my IP” by several orders of magnitude on their wish-lists – this trap is almost universal.
Everyone who participates in filing and prosecuting a patent application encounters the Duty of Disclosure, whether you be an inventor, a technology group manager, inside intellectual property (IP) counsel, or inside litigation counsel (hopefully this is not your first encounter!). Most of the information here is pretty basic, but it is worth a revisit from time-to-time. Also, there are some proposed new procedures in the U.S. Patent Office that promise to make complying a little less worrisome and a little less expensive.
When consumers think of “tech” companies, Apple, HP, Cisco, Microsoft, Samsung, and many other technology giants come to mind. While all of these organizations are clearly innovators, they do not, even when combined, account for the majority of innovation in the United States. The vast majority of innovation occurs in small companies, many of which have fewer than 10 employees. Small, innovative companies live to create new technology. They are passionate about discovery, research, development, and modernization.