5 Critical Patent Strategies Startups Can Use From Large Companies

Critical Patent Strategies for Startups

Patents are crucial assets for startups, particularly in their early stages. The intricacies of protecting innovation may not be immediately clear, but startups can learn valuable patent strategies from established companies to safeguard their ideas effectively.

While patents can be expensive, the value they bring to a company is unparalleled. Strong patent portfolios have common elements, including:

– Skilled patent attorneys to draft claims

– Wide-ranging patent protection for key products

– Patents covering strategic market segments and geographies

– Monitoring competitors’ patent activities

– In-house management of the patent program

Understanding Patent Strategies

A patent strategy involves a series of steps to secure and position inventions, innovations, and intellectual property. It encompasses decisions on which innovations to protect, which markets to prioritize, and which professionals to hire for patent applications.

Patent claims define the scope of protection conferred by a patent, while other parts of the document provide support and background information. It’s important to note that the title, summary, and abstract may not directly align with the claim scope.

Patent laws require applicants to explain and distinctly claim their invention. Each claim must be carefully drafted to avoid being too broad or too narrow. Even a single word can significantly impact the claim’s meaning.

Example of Patent Infringement

For instance, Kustom Signals Inc holds a patent for digital signal processing of traffic radar, which involves selecting either the greatest magnitude or higher frequency search. They brought a patent infringement claim against Applied Concepts, as the accused device searched for both magnitude and frequency.

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The case hinged on the interpretation of the term "or," which implies a choice between two alternatives. The outcome would have been different if Kustom Signals had used "and" in their patent claim. Small words can have significant implications, and it’s crucial to be aware of their effects.

Establishing a Strong Patent Strategy

To avoid issues like the example above, startups should consider the following steps:

1. Hiring a Skilled Patent Attorney

Cutting costs on patent approval or enforcement can lead to more significant expenses in the long run. It’s essential to choose a patent attorney with a successful track record who can provide realistic timelines, probabilities of success, and a clear understanding of the legal requirements.

2. Broadening Patent Protection for Key Products

Relying on a single patent for each product may leave room for competitors to design workarounds. A more effective strategy is to secure multiple patents that cover various functionalities and components of key products. This increases the difficulty and cost for competitors to replicate the product.

3. Adopting a Market-Driven Strategy

Instead of seeking patents in every market, startups should focus on protecting key markets that are strategically relevant. This saves costs and prevents overcrowding. European hubs like France, Germany, and the UK offer significant coverage within Europe.

4. Monitoring Competitors’ Patenting Activities

Sophisticated companies monitor their competitors’ patent portfolios to identify any threats to their own patent protection. They can take proactive measures to challenge or invalidate competitors’ patents. Startups can benefit from consulting companies that provide patent monitoring services and competitive intelligence.

5. Hiring In-House Counsel

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Established enterprises often have in-house counsel to coordinate with innovators. While startups may not have the resources for full-time in-house counsel, outsourcing legal tasks to experienced patent attorneys is a suitable alternative. In-house counsel equity can be offered to secure dedicated help when needed.

Thinking Long-Term

By adopting the best practices of larger companies, startups can protect their intellectual property and drive long-term commercial growth. Hiring a skilled patent attorney and following the suggested strategies will help startups build a solid patent portfolio and position themselves for success.

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