IP Myths

By Keith J LOVEN, BSc (Eng), CPA, EPA, MITMA

Patents are a waste of time; all you have to do is change a minor detail and you can avoid infringement

  • If that were true, I’d be out of a job! But a well-drafted patent is difficult to get round. A patent attorneys job is to try to protect the broad concept, rather than be dependent on the small details.

So why do patents go into so much detail?

  • A patent specification must provide proper support for what you are claiming as your invention – the protection you get is related to what you’ve actually developed. If your invention is just a small improvement over what’s gone before, you’re only entitled to protect your advance. If you have a wholly new concept, you might be entitled to broader protection.

You don’t need a patent attorney – you can file your own application with the Patent Office

  • Well of course this is strictly true, just as you can represent yourself in court, or prepare and file your own tax returns. However, since a patent specification is both a technical description and a legal document, it is easy to get things wrong. It can be easy to get some sort of patent – it’s not so easy to get a good one that will stand up to scrutiny by lawyers looking for loopholes.

I could never afford to go to court, so there’s not much point in getting a patent.

  • Going to court generally only happens when things go wrong. A patent has to be regarded as a commercial tool, to be used sensibly. After all, there usually two ways of looking at an infringement situation. One is the emotional way: “How dare you copy my idea! I want you to stop.” The other is the commercial way: “I’m flattered you think our invention is so good you want to copy it. How about benefitting from our patent by taking a licence?” Since the infringer probably has no more wish to go to court than you do, there is pressure for him to settle as well.

I can’t afford to get a patent in China, so how could I stop copies being made there?

  • You probably can’t, but if you are worried about the copies competing with you in your home market, the good news is that you don’t need to. Think in terms of protecting your markets rather than stopping manufacture. A UK patent, for example, can be used to stop sales in the UK, regardless of where manufacture took place. You might even be able to prevent the infringing products coming into the country.

Can’t I have a world patent?

  • Sorry, you can’t, because there’s no such thing yet! You have to patent country-by-country (but see above). However, there are ways, such as the “Patent Co-operation Treaty” which can simplify the application procedure – a bit! Your patent attorney can guide you as to the best way for your particular circumstances.

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