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Use Patents to Your Advantage

Posted by: Rod Kurtz on October 17, 2005

Although patentable concepts generally originate in the minds of the technical staff, the decision to proceed with a patent application requires more than a technical assessment. A patent may provide significant marketing and financial advantages in addition to the obvious benefits to technical-staff development and morale.

The combined financial return and potential risks associated with the decision on filing a patent application should be compared with all possible alternative investments. The technical assessment of the innovation should focus on the competitive strength of the anticipated patent, not just whether the idea is patentable.

Like any other strategic investment projection, estimates of all discounted cash flows through the life of the asset should be included. Remember that in some rapidly changing markets, innovations may become obsolete much earlier than a patent term of up to 20 years.

Also consider whether a patent would provide more value to your business strategy than a trade secret or even public disclosure. While it may be impossible to keep some valuable ideas as trade secrets for even a few minutes, others may last for an amazing period of time. The process for making a unique alloy for cymbals has remained a Zildjian family secret since the early 1600s, according to Jon Cohan in Zildjian: A History of the Legendary Cymbal Makers.

If the analysis leads to no clear winner, the risks of not filing for the patent will tip the balance. Regardless of the outcome, you’ll gain insight on how to integrate your patents into your overall business strategy by working through this formal filing decision process.

May your intellectual property portfolio (and your company) share the same enduring value of Zildjian cymbals.

Dan Whittle
Patent Leverage
Bellingham, Wash.

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