Patent protection is not free and using patents to stop determined infringers is not easy. These realities may cause you to ask “Are patents worth it?” Our answer to that question is “Yes!” Here’s why.
Fact #1 – If you are a successful innovator, you will be copied. You have heard the saying “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” In the marketplace, copying is the best evidence that you have a successful product.
Fact #2 – You cannot out-innovate a copier. Innovation never follows a straight path from brilliant insight to perfect product to commercial success. Copying, on the other hand, is straightforward, as the copier can bypass most of the pitfalls, dead ends, etc. experienced by the innovator. Accordingly, what takes you months to innovate, a copier can reproduce in weeks.
Fact #3 – Copying will kill your profitability. At first, being copied may be a mere annoyance. However, if left unchecked, market forces will encourage the copying to spread and grow until it eats up your profit margin and threatens the life of your business.
Fact #4 – A patent is often the only tool available to stop others from copying your product. There are very few products that cannot be reverse engineered. Once you start selling your product, you are effectively shipping your blueprints to your competitors. If a third party decides to copy your product, a patent may be your only recourse.
Fact #5 – Expenditures on patent protection can be scaled. Innovators get into trouble when they spend nothing on patent protection. They also get into trouble when they spend more on patent protection than is justified by the market demand for their product. These mistakes both arise from an all-or-nothing view of patent protection that ignores the various strategies and options available for controlling patent-related costs. In the early stages of innovation, expenditures on patent protection can and should be kept low. When the market response dictates and resources grow, expenditures on patent protection can and should be scaled up.
In view of these facts, an innovator who decides patent protection is not worth it is betting that he will fail. He is saying “I don’t think I will be successful and I will be glad that I did not waste any money or time pursuing patent protection.” We don’t think betting against yourself is a good way to pursue a business opportunity. There are better options!