Patents ensure that inventors can harvest a return on investment. Companies pour time and money into innovations and need to protect their work from competitors prepared to swoop in and poach their technology.
Often a single patent is not enough to cover every element of a company’s valuable IP. A solid portfolio should parallel both the direction of a business and its relationship to the competition to provide the portfolio with both offensive and defensive power.
Any gaps in the portfolio can hurt a business. Competitors who find vulnerabilities can incorporate unprotected features into their products, or patent those components themselves and prevent the inventor from selling their own product.
If a company tries to enforce patents against a copycat competitor, or gets sued and tries to use its portfolio defensively, the patents may be invalidated and rendered worthless.
Each patent in the portfolio must be crafted with an understanding of the relationship between the invention and competing technologies that exist today and might exist tomorrow. Companies must avoid obtaining patents that will be obsolete by the time they are granted, often years after filing the application. Common pitfalls include:
- Omitting international patent filings
- Failing to thoroughly cover features and ancillary elements of an invention
- Rushing to market before filing applications
United States patent law gives inventors about one year after public disclosure — a launch, for instance — to file a provisional or non-provisional patent application. With the European Patent Office, however, inventors cannot file for a patent at all after public disclosure, so getting the timing right is crucial. Without international patents, competitors can sell copycat products overseas.
Computer software patent portfolios require special knowledge and expertise to avoid developing gaps in patent coverage. Contact the attorneys at Blueshift IP to conduct a patent gap analysis for your intellectual property portfolio.