A patent is a right to exclude others granted by the government to inventors for their invention.
I’ll explain the pros and cons of getting a patent. By the end of this article, you’ll know the #1 reason you ought to consider getting a patent for your product.
Primary pro of getting a patent
With a patent, you can force the competition to stop making, using, selling and importing your invention into the United States. To do so, you will have to sue them which would cost a lot of money. Many people don’t get a patent because of the high cost to enforce your patent. However, that is not a good reason.
Keep on reading.
Think of the alternative, without a patent, you have to let your competition copy your ideas and inventions. You don’t even have the option to sue the competition even if you had the money later on when your product is outselling the competition.
That’s the first and primary benefit of a patent. You can eliminate the competition. The patent allows you to artificially reduce supply of the patented product, and thus increase your pricing and profits.
If the competition wants to introduce a product similar to your product, they would have to offer a product that doesn’t infringe on your patent.
They would have to spend time and energy differentiating their product from your patent product.
Second pro of getting a patent
The second benefit of a patent is that it acts as a deterrent even against large companies.
Large companies have more money, better marketing, established distribution channels among other things.
Startups and small companies are on a budget and don’t have all of those resources.
But, despite the disparities, larger companies must still respect your patent. Otherwise, they risk being shut down later on and liable for damages.
Yes, it’s true that patent litigation is very expensive. But, when the damages are large, you should be able to find a contingency fee patent litigator to take on your case.
Third pro of getting a patent
The third benefit of a patent is that it allows you to sell your idea.
The patent gives the buyer a better idea of what your idea is. Anything outside of the scope of the claims of the patent is not your idea.
With a patent, you aren’t just selling an idea. You’re selling the right to tell the competition to stop.
The buyer can review the patent and determine if the patented idea is valuable enough for them.
Primary con of getting a patent
A patent isn’t all good. Rather, there are significant downsides or cons to getting a patent.
A primary pitfall to a patent is the patent legal cost which we’ve already discussed.
The cost to get a patent can be large and range between $15,000 to $25,000. Some patents can cost upwards of $40,000.
Startups have to balance patent legal costs with the other costs of launching a product. Should you put money into marketing, product development, etc. or into the patent?
Startups have a hard time knowing whether they will make money. If they knew that, the patent costs wouldn’t be a problem.
However, any money they put into the patent process in the beginning is money that they might not get back later on through sales. It’s also money that they would not be able to put into marketing and product development.
Startups need to decide whether the patent costs are worth it given that those funds could be used elsewhere. It’s a tough choice. Your patent attorney needs to prioritize the technology so that you are spending money in the right areas.
Second con to getting a patent
Another pitfall is that a patent MAY not stop a competitor. After you spend all that money on a patent, the patent may be worthless if the protection is too narrow.
There are ways to get broader patent protection but that costs more money.
Why you need to get a patent?
At the beginning stages of your product launch, for many startups, you don’t need a patent. That’s right. You don’t need a patent.
But, you need to reserve the right to get a patent later on.
It’s to prepare for future success. Let me explain.
Without reserving the right to get a patent later on, you are letting the competition copy your ideas and inventions later. You can’t do anything about it when your product is successful.
By reserving the right to get a patent, you have a chance of get the patent later to sue the competition.
You reserve your right to get a patent later on by filing a provisional or nonprovisional patent application. Otherwise, you eventually dedicate your idea to the public.
Once you decide to launch your product or business, you should consider filing a provisional patent application because it’s just a part of planning process for if and when your product does succeed.
Getting a patent can be expensive. But don’t think in terms of getting a patent. Think about just reserving your place within patent system. If your product is successful, you can use the profits from your product to pay the costs of getting a patent. But, you can’t do this unless you reserve your right to get a patent by filing a provisional or nonprovisional application.
When you should not get a patent?
Although I’m a patent attorney, sometimes, you should not get a patent.
First, don’t get a patent for small ideas. Small ideas are those with small potential to make only a small profit.
Second, if the product life cycle is very short, then don’t get a patent. Patents can take about 9 months to 3 years to grant. Read my article on why it takes so long to get a patent. If the product is no longer on the shelves by the time you get your patent, patents are worthless in those situations.
The above are not absolutes but only things to consider.