Something that comes up time and time again when new inventors are thinking about how best to protect their idea is whether a patent is worthwhile.
Whilst trade secrets can be incredibly effective, they are usually only effective in certain industries. For most inventors and entrepreneurs, there will be a product to be sold, and therefore reverse-engineered by your devious competitors.
As for the lifespan of a patent, although twenty years is a relatively short time-span for many companies, for individual products, this represents a long period of stasis, and few commercially viable products will not have undergone significant development over so many years. We can readily confirm this by taking a self-indulgent trip down memory lane.
Think back. What were you doing twenty years ago? Perhaps you were a convert to Girl Power. Were you drawing people like one of your French girls? Or maybe you tested the boundaries of photography to the limit.
Whatever you were doing, we can all agree that technology has come on leaps and bounds since the days of the disposable camera. Nokia phones were the real hits of the day, but where would we be without smartphones now? DVDs were also starting to come into their own in 1997, but streaming technology and the cloud is putting a severe dent into physical storage technology. In twenty years’ time, your own development will likely little resemble the first nugget of an idea which might cause you to seek protection.
A patent application is designed to provide you with the short- and medium- term protection that you need to start to commercialise your idea safely, and to reduce the chance of copyists appearing and denting your market space.
A patent is a tool:
- to help get your invention on to the market with as great a chance of success as possible
- to deter competitors
- to protect your time, effort, and development money
- to encourage outside investment, and ultimately
- to help you build a successful business