Why apply for a patent?
The owner of a patent is granted a 20 year monopoly to manufacture, sell, licence, import and use the patented product or process.
However before a patent is filed, it is important to determine who is entitled to apply for it to avoid both potential disputes and/or patent invalidity. For more information read our information sheet: “Patent inventorship and ownership – what are the differences?“.
The penalties for patent infringement are substantial. In addition to the usual remedy of an injunction against future infringement they can include damages, payment to the patentee of any profits earned by the infringer, litigation costs, destruction or surrender of infringing articles and the surrender of machinery used for making any infringing articles.
If time and money have been expended researching and developing an invention, then it is wise to secure protection to prevent competitors from unfairly taking advantage of those efforts. In the majority of cases, litigation is not necessary to prevent infringement of a patent. The mere existence of a patent(or even a patent application) is often sufficient to deter many competitors from copying.
If a patentee does not wish to manufacture and market its invention, it can sell or license its patent rights to others.
However manufacturers tend to be reluctant to enter into a licensing agreement unless a patent application has been filed. This is because the existence of a patent ensures their investment in the invention will not subsequently be diminished by competition.
For some inventors, the cost of securing a patent can be a significant concern, as most patent costs are incurred before the invention has started to show a return. However, when assessing these costs the likely commercial return on a 20 year monopoly conferred by a patent should be taken into account, in addition the loses incurred if others freely copy your product/process should not be underestimated. You can guarantee if a product or process is successful, others will want to copy it. Without a patent competitors can freely copy and make money from a new product/process, often without having to embark in their own expensive research & development with no guarantee of success.
Furthermore, it is expensive and time consuming to challenge the validity of a patent. Therefore the value of a patent application as a deterrent, even if not completed, often justifies the costs incurred. If the existence of the patent application deters just one competitor from copying, the application has been worthwhile in providing a window of opportunity to gain a market foothold. When deciding to file a patent application, the application costs should be seen as insignificant when compared to the profits that could have been lost to competing products.
Fact: Misappropriation of an invention is less likely if an application is filed before approaching potential manufacturers or investors.