While admittedly a very special case, funded on both sides by very deep pockets, 1.7 BILLION dollars isn’t chump change to anyone. See http://www.bizjournals.com/boston/stories/2010/02/01/daily1.html.
One thing this settlement reinforces is the advice I always give clients: you only know you have a valuable patent when someone wants to copy your invention – either by licensing or infringing your patent. So the key to getting “the right patents, at the right time, for the right cost” is to ask yourself the question “If so, so what?” In other words, if you do get a patent issued on your invention (3 or 4 years from now), will anyone care?
- Will your competitors simply find another way to build a competing product, having seen your patent application 18 months from now?
- Will the cost of their R&D make your solution look attractive?
- Will they already have a competing, non-infringing product on the market by the time your patent issues?
- Will your approach represent a big cost savings?
- Will the state of the art already passed by this technology?
- Will you have the resources to defend your patent rights (or at least find an attorney to take your case on contingency)
Think carefully about these questions before investing in a patent. Remember that your patent can only stop someone from making, using, selling, etc starting on the day your patent issues. All of the sales the competition has made during your patent’s pendancy are not considered infringement.
Before committing to filing a patent application you should evaluate (with professional help) how broad your patent is likely to be, in light of the prior art and what your competitors are likely to do if they are blocked by your patent.