Most people think the patent
process has three stages:
Invention (conception to
Disclosure (engineering write up
to Patent Application); and
Prosecution (filing to - we hope -
These stages are, of course,
necessary to obtain a patent but
alone they're not enough to
build an Intellectual Property
portfolio in a successful
company. That is, all inventions
do not hold equal value for your
company. But how do you
differentiate between the high
value from the low value
You guide your patenting
decisions with a plan, a strategy.
If "Necessity is the mother
of invention", then "Strategy
is the father of patents".
Be willing to take the time
up-front to figure out what
aspects of your product technology
need protection and will provide a
sustainable competitive advantage.
That way, your Invention Review
Committee can decide rationally
which inventions to patent, which
to hold as trade secrets, and
which to publish defensively.
What! You don't have an IRC
or a patenting strategy! Don't
feel bad, you're not alone. Many
companies make their patenting
decisions on a ad hoc, CTO's gut
feel, basis. But these companies
often end up spending money on
patents that don't advance the
company's competitive or financial
Note that there are many
different patenting strategies. If
you have a severely limited
budget, you might only file for
system level patents. If you can
afford it, you can make your
patent portfolio an imposing
barrier to entry for new
competitors by filing patents on
every variation of your technology
(for example, Morton
International, which used to be in
the airbag business, has well over
100 patents on airbag technology).
Or, your strategy can include
patenting technologies just for
the licensing potential.
The key lesson from Patenting
101 is you need a patenting
strategy to make informed
decisions when faced with your
engineers' invention disclosures.
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