Why Are Patents So Crucial for SME's Looking to Get Off the Ground?

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When it comes to turning an idea you have for a product into a thriving, money-making enterprise, understanding the legalities of monetising your innovation can be a daunting process. With so many hundreds of thousands of cutting-edge technological designs being introduced every year, at some point it stands to reason that someone else will have a similar idea to you and look to generate profit via a similar approach-so you need to defend your market share and ensure that only you can make money from your research-via a patent.

A complex legal document, what a patent is is typically defined as 'a protective right granted by the UK Intellectual Property Office for a new invention'. This means that once you hold a patent for a specific invention that you can prove is originally of your design, nobody can copy it for a set period of time without incurring a legal challenge. Indeed, there are numerous cases of huge companies such as Microsoft being accused of violating patents, with the Connecticut based-firm HoloTouch seeking 'triple damages' from the computing giant due to their supposed violation of a patent to do with holographic imaging that HoloTech took out numerous years ago.

Although time-consuming and expensive to acquire, patents are vital for two main reasons. Whilst they clearly define what your creation is and how it has been made, the patent application process also includes a search throughout the active patent archives. This search will make clear whether your design is truly the first of its kind and unique, and whether or not you yourself are breaching someone else's patent inadvertently-which you can then subsequently amend.

The main benefit for SME's is that if your new design is that good that it can greatly increase your volume of customers, holding the IP rights to said design means that your competitors are forced to adapt through their own research, or simply deal with the fact that you possess the better alternative to what they are offering. Carving out an initial niche is difficult enough as it is, so investing time and money down this avenue can yield very profitable returns in the future.

For smaller firms looking to attract attention from larger companies or investors though, patents are a great indicator of your intellect and capabilities when it comes to product design. Large businesses have been known to by smaller ones just to acquire their Intellectual Property (IP) rights, namely their patents to specific pieces of technology. This strategy of talent acquisition is considered as an approach that creates 'double value' for the company doing the takeover as it creates value for them and restricts their rival's access to your ideas, so if you want to become part of a greater collective, holding a patent shows that you are worthy of attention.

It should be taken into account though that a patent only applies to the country within which it is taken out. They can be obtained abroad, but doing so will require the process to be carried out again, checked against existing patents, and translated if the need arises. However this can work as a positive as it should make you think about whether or not a particular country is suitable for expansion once you've developed in your home country, enabling you to plan for the future. These searches are time-consuming, but can be done for free via the websites of the various institutions 

 

 

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