Why should research and development (R&D) teams or organizations care about patents? The answer might surprise you. A recent report by Forbes states that each year R&D introduces more than 250,000 new products into the marketplace. Of those, 66% will fail within the first two years.
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.
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.
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.