Where Science Meets Muse

The Paralyzing Power of Patents

Posted by Plish on March 6, 2009


The idea behind patents is a good one.

It provides protection to the idea generator by allowing the party to get financial benefit from the product for a certain amount of time.

It protects the little guy, at least in theory.

Patents force others to develop new approaches to problems-they spark innovation….

…in theory…

The problem comes when companies play the system; when they have multiple applications percolating in the patent office, multiple patents covering multiple approaches.

Controlling patents becomes a way to create a monopoly using intellectual property.

Innovation is still possible but it becomes much more difficult.

I’ve spent a good portion of my professional career navigating around and through patents.  It would be an understatement to say that the law around patents can sometimes cripple new product development.

Yes, when you can get around something it creates a whole new landscape of products, but more often than not, it results in incremental changes that are based more upon what can be defended in court than what brings true value to the customer.

The good news is that products can be conceived of, developed, launched and be wildly successful and they don’t even need patent protection!  Even better, often these products have no patent competition-great ideas aren’t always patentable!

Don’t let the price of a patent, or the threat of possible competing patents slow down your creative thinking.   Keep solving problems, keep your creative juices flowing.

Most of all, if you get an idea and  think you need to patent, find out if there is a market first.  There are great resources out there like the Washington State University Innovation Assessment Center.  For $795 they’ll assess your technology, do a basic patent search and even help you get off the ground if they believe there is a market for your product.  It’s alot cheaper than the $2000 minimum you’ll spend on a patent.



Keep records of what you are doing in a bound notebook, sign and date your ideas and if possible have someone witness them just in case.  That information will be valuable for establishing when your patent protection starts.

What tips or ideas regarding patents, innovation and being creative can you share?


One Response to “The Paralyzing Power of Patents”

  1. Great post. Gives me what I have been looking for.

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