The Benefits of Patenting: When to Protect Your Inventions and Why

Latest posts by Jeremy Foo (see all)

Patents are one of the ways to keep track of the immense advancement of our society. According to IFI Claims, 2019 saw a new record of patents granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office – a staggering 333,530.

Given proper infrastructure, these ideas can become game-changers. One big idea can make or break bottom lines, and companies are increasingly pushing intellectual property (IP) boundaries to seal success. Still, startups and creators often lag behind with patenting. And that’s a shame – they need to know their rights and act to protect them.

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Read on to find out what the benefits of patenting are and why it adds value to any venture

Let’s rethink patenting

One of the reasons why startups don’t patent is simply because they don’t know they can. When we think about patents, we tend to imagine 19th-century inventors or secret projects carried out at Tesla headquarters. But in reality, patents are way more accessible and widespread, and necessary if you have a unique solution to a problem.

Often, entrepreneurs struggle to determine when and what to patent. Generally, patents protect inventions that are either uniquely new, or can be used in a novel, useful and non-obvious way. That’s why it’s crucial that you know your invention through and through, and whether there’s any aspect you need to develop further before having it patented.

Startups should register their patents once they can afford to. In the U.S., patent costs range from roughly $5,000 to $16,000 based on complexity. Despite the process being relatively laborious, if you believe that your company has created a truly unique invention, then it’s definitely worth the investment.

An investment for the future

Sometimes we forget that it’s not just physical products, but also the intangible, like software and concepts, that can and should be protected. Patents level the playing field and ensure that brains, not volume or purchasing power, are rewarded properly.

With intellectual property, ideas are protected for 14 to 20 years. An added benefit is the protection against unwarranted practices of those attempting to copy your invention. Cases of former staff being pumped about processes or unethical surveillance techniques being used to anticipate competitor developments are not uncommon.

Ideas are expensive – so make sure to protect yours.

Some of the world’s most valuable conglomerates once started as a small startup with big ideas – and often they’re still loyal to the very same vision outlined in their first patent filings.

For example, Nicholas Woodman presented his patent in 2004, to enable people to easily record their exciting life moments. His harness to attach a camera safely to your body remains the main principle behind the tremendous success of GoPro today.

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Adding value to your startup

Entrepreneurs also need to know that intellectual property is one of their most valuable assets. In fact, it can raise the estimate of a venture by up to four times.

Investors or venture capitalists (VCs) love to ask about your defensibility or why they should fund you and not your competitor. They want to be certain that your team has the best and most unique position to solve the market problem you’ve set out to tackle.

During the pitching stage, your idea gets exposed to a wide audience. VCs and investors rarely sign non-disclosure agreements anymore, so great ideas can potentially get leaked. Likewise, you might want to pitch to investors who have invested in similar companies such as yours, as their knowledge in that space might be very valuable. Having a patent can give you certainty and confidence to reach out, network and explore different options, such as selling or licensing.

The investment in patents, and intellectual property more broadly, isn’t always on top of founders’ minds. But, anyone with a unique idea and a vision to bring it to reality should definitely consider patenting. Not only can it protect your startup in the future, it can also provide valuable leverage when raising capital.

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