Intellectual Property & Patents
Intellectual Property is defined as “a work or invention that is the result of creativity, such as manuscript or a design, to which one has rights and for which one may apply for a patent , copyright, trademark, etc.”.
So there exist different forms of intellectual property, Each of these forms of intellectual property is, I think, very interesting, but also individually more or less important depending on the particular scope of invention it’s under.
For example (in most basic form), copyright pertains to the legal and exclusive right given to an inventor of literature, form, art, film, or music. Trademark pertains the exclusive rights to a logo or particular set of words used in a specific way (a symbol). A patent pertains to a material invention, or way of creating or using that material invention.
Each of these forms of intellectual property is in some ways simple and in other complicated.
I’d like to focus exclusively on patents so we can go more into depth on the subject.
Definitively, a patent is “a government authority or license conferring a right or title for a set period, especially the sole right to exclude other from making, or selling an invention”.
In other words, the holder of a patent has the exclusive rights to make and sell an invention (technology, product, or process) for a limited amount of time. Often, patents last for 20 years.
Here are some interesting and practical things I’ve learned about patents in my schooling, personal experience, and entrepreneurial background.
- The rights to a patent may be shared to other entities for a number of reasons. For example, the owner may need help to produce that product.
- If you look closely, you will often find the Patent ID-a long combination of letters and numbers-either on the product or packaging of a patented product. This happens very oft on retail products! For example, if you ever purchase a wallet from Thread Wallets (a local and awesome company founded in Provo, UT) you will see the patent ID on the packaging of the wallet. This helps to blatantly and quickly defer people from even thinking about capitalizing from their invention (without their permission).
- Most patents only apply only to the country within they were issued. So yes, another country could potentially start manufacturing your product unless your patent is somehow international, or, you have patents in multiple countries.
- You can find any existing patent online! The U.S. issued patents are here https://www.uspto.gov/. I haven’t searched through it much, so I don’t know how difficult or easy it is and how best to navigate that massive database.
- Patents are very pricey. Even for small-business entrepreneurs with a simple retail product, patents often exceed $10,000. Not only that, they take at least a year to be issued after applied for. It’s a competitive and pricey business, and risk.
- Companies can apply for a patent they previously owned, and thus keep it longer than 20 years.
There are some more questions about patents to be answered that I would find very useful.
What can be patented?
What cannot be patented?
Patents provide an enforced way for an inventor to capitalize off their invention. It’s a pricey, long, and sometimes risky move. Often, when small-business or aspiring entrepreneurs have an idea they want to turn into a business, one of the first reactions they have is to protect that idea. Depending on your invention and the potential business that follows it, it could be well worth the investment. On the other hand, the capital, time, risk, and difficulty of a patent might not be worth it, at least in the given moment.
I bring this up because I’ve learned about companies who are $20,000,000 in debt for patents yet haven’t made close to that much in revenue. On the other hand, I’ve also seen companies whose ideas get stolen from right under them, dooming them to failure. Many large and successful companies have hundreds, if not thousands of patents. Depending on your resources and type of invention, a patent could or could not be worth it.
Do you have any important notes to share on patents or intellectual property?
I’d love to hear from you!
Grant @ Motilek