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Do I Need a Patent?

Ask a patent attorney whether you need a patent and he or she will likely stare at you like you just asked them if they need a new Jet Ski. Despite possessing a wealth of knowledge about what patents are and what they do, most patent attorneys simply do not have enough information to determine if a patent is right for you. A patent that may be of great value to you, may be of little or no value to someone else. How do you tell?

Self-described “Recovering Patent Lawyer,” Jackie Hutter, has just posted an insightful SlideShare presentation addressing exactly this question:

In addition to providing insightful tips on traits to look for in a good patent attorney, Jackie guides you through the “To patent or not to patent” decision-making process.

When should you pursue a patent? Jackie suggests looking for these three factors:

1) Your invention has significant business value;
2) Competitors will likely copy it; and
3) You have the resources to obtain and defend your patent.

When should you hold off on a patent? Look for these factors:

1) Your idea is not associated with an existing business model;
2) You do not understand the market application of your idea; and
3) You cannot invest the resources necessary to obtain and protect the patent.

Even if the foregoing three factors are present, that is not to say you should never pursue a patent on your invention. You may just want to consider regrouping until you have addressed these issues.

The bottom line is that while patents can be a valuable part of nearly any business plan, they are no pot of gold. Patents do not make money on their own; it is always the businesses developed around the patented invention that makes the money. Trying to profit from a naked idea, or even a naked patent is a fools errand. Unless you have a business model attached to your invention, it is very unlikely that your patent will ever generate enough revenue to pay for itself.

Brett Trout

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