Why Patents Matter to SMEs
Patents give their owners control over their invention. These valuable assets provide a competitive advantage. Beyond this, a strong patent portfolio can reassure investors and increase margins, and using your patents strategically can improve your bottom line.
How your business can benefit from patents
What you need to know about patent protection
Patents protect inventions that are new, useful, and offer a significant improvement over what already exists. You can secure patent protection for a product, a process, or an improvement of these. The length of patent protection lasts, in general, up to 20 years, after which the invention can be used by anyone. A similar right, called utility models, can be easier and cheaper to obtain, but typically offers protection for a shorter period of time.
The process starts with drafting a patent application. This technical document describes your invention and the legal protection you will secure. A skilled patent professional can support you in this process.
Once the application is drafted, you will need to file it with a patent office. Remember to apply for patents in each country or region where you want protection. You may consider using the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) to file in multiple countries or regions at the same time.
In many patent offices, your patent application will be published and examined. During examination, the patent office will check whether your patent meets local legal requirements. You may have the opportunity to argue with what the patent office finds or change your application.
If your application is successful, you will be granted a patent. Often, you will need to pay a fee at this stage to secure protection.
To enjoy the full term of a patent’s protection, many countries will require you to renew your application or granted patent. This usually involves paying a fee on an annual or semi-annual basis.
Patent rights require significant investment of financial resources, with costs incurred in each country or region you want protection. The costs vary by country. They include:
- professional fees for drafting and prosecuting your application
- official fees paid to each patent office, typically due at the time of application and at key milestones in the process
- translation costs, if filing abroad
- renewal fees.
It is up to you, as the patent owner, to monitor if others are using your invention. If you decide to enforce your patent, some steps you may take:
- send a letter (known as a “cease and desist letter”) informing the third party that you think they are using your patent. The letter will need to be specific, identifying the patent and explaining why you think your patent is being used;
- try to settle your disputes via alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, for example, WIPO’s arbitration and mediation services;
- initiate relevant proceedings before enforcement and judicial authorities.
Ready to apply for a patent? Explore more about how to obtain a patent in your country and abroad.
Learn how SMEs are using patents in their businesses
Explore how patents can be used to enhance your business, and find more case studies and stories.
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Inventor Assistance Program helps small businesses and individuals in participating countries navigate the patent system at no cost.