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Who Needs a Patent? The Answer May Surprise You 

by Jackie Hutter

As an IP Strategist (and “Fully Recovered Patent Attorney“) who works with startup entrepreneurs, I am frequently asked if one should obtain a patent to “protect” their idea.  My response typically is:  “the only person who needs a patent is a patent attorney.”  Indeed, if a patent attorney fails to convince clients like you that they need to obtain a patent, she will quickly lose her livelihood.  So, if a patent attorney tells you that you need to obtain a patent for your startup company without first fully evaluating your business model, your go to market strategy and the competitive landscape, you should immediately wonder whether the patent will be as beneficial for you as it is for the person making the recommendation.

This is not to say that patents are never the right thing for startups.  To the contrary, examples abound for startup companies where patents served as a primary means of value creation.  Studies nonetheless show that only a small percentage of patents become valuable business assets, even when the filers are sophisticated companies with large patent portfolios that retain expert internal staffs to manage their IP strategies.  This reveals that most companies miss the mark when it comes to protecting their innovations using patents.  Moreover, startups pay 3 times or more for patents than do their larger corporate counterparts, meaning that the low return on investment from patents is exacerbated for smaller businesses.

In this blog, I will frequently elaborate on patents specifically—and IP in general—as  these topics influence the world of startups.  My aim will be to “open the black box” of patents to provide entrepreneurs with a better understanding of whether and to what extent this expensive and time intensive legal process will work to their maximize startup business value.  As a preview, I will make it clear that, after cutting through the hype and legal-speak, patents only matter if they help entrepreneurs get paid for their hard work in creating a successful startup company.  This effectively means that whether a patent is the right thing depends largely on whether it makes it “cheaper for competitors to go through you than around you.”

I look forward to sharing this knowledge so that my fellow entrepreneurs can be armed with the knowledge required to determine whether a patents is the right choice for their business.  In the meantime, please feel free to visit my IP Asset Maximizer Blog where I have been posting my thoughts on IP Strategy since 2008 or reach out to me at jhutter@leanlegalteam.com.


[Photo Credit: http://www.handalglobal.com/images/mod1.jpg ]

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