To Patent or not to Patent?
James D Brown
There is an inherent tension within businesses, large and small, when it comes to deciding on whether to patent or not to patent their inventions.
Obtaining granted patent rights brings well documented advantages. It allows a business a monopoly on their invention of up to 20 years and can be used to lower the amount of corporation tax payable on profits made through commercialising products including the patented invention, giving them a substantial advantage over their competition.
The trade off to consider, however, is that in exchange for this monopoly, the patenting process requires you to disclose the details of your invention. You are required to explain the problem your invention is solving and to provide clear examples of how it does this – these are called embodiments. Once the patent has expired, there is nothing stopping your competitors from copying your invention. Your IP Attorney will work with you to make sure that a patent strategy is in place to manage and prepare your patent portfolio well in advance, in order to minimise the future impact of key patents expiring.
The alternative to patenting is to keep your invention secret. This is often referred to as a “Trade secret”. Companies may choose to keep their inventions confidential with the advantage being that the invention won’t then have to be disclosed publicly and this in turn would provide businesses with a distinct competitive edge. The success of such a strategy lies in your (and your partners, workforce, suppliers etc.) ability to keep your invention secret. It also relies on your competition not being able to easily discover the uniqueness of your invention by studying your products closely or reverse engineering.
Tune into our Innovation Talks podcast episode “Trade Secrets vs Patenting” to hear how IP professionals can help you come to the right IP decision for your business. The Innovation Talks podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker, Deezer or Stitcher. Why not subscribe so you don’t miss our future episodes!
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