Why patents are like sausage - and how it can help your startup
Ok, this may seem like a strange concept. After all, patents are legal documents and sausages are, well, food. So they don’t have anything in common.
Actually patents and sausage have a lot in common, specifically the way that both are made.
The strength of a patent depends on how it is made. Just like sausages being made can be a pretty ugly process.
HOW PATENTS ARE MADE
A patent’s life starts as a patent application (actually it starts as someone’s great idea, but that’s another story).
After the patent application is filed, it is checked by an examiner or a representative of the government who determines whether it is worthy to be granted as a patent.
Since a patent represents a monopoly, you as the patent owner, can control whether others can share in your idea. The examiner wants to be certain that the idea in the patent application is sufficiently innovative to be granted a patent.
This means a process of negotiation with the examiner, multiple written communications and sometimes also over the phone or in person.
WHY PATENT NEGOTIATION IS IMPORTANT
The process of negotiation determines how the patent can be interpreted. More specifically, the claims, the section of the patent which determines your rights as a patent holder. Statements that you, the patent holder, make during this process can determine whether you have a strong patent or a weak one.
ALL statements that you make that limit the patent’s breadth could come back to haunt you, as they weaken the patent.
WHAT ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE’S PATENTS?
The same limitations apply to other people’s patents. If the other patent owner makes limiting statements, their patent could also be weakened.
This is why you need a US Patent Agent or US Patent Attorney to review a patent with you, to see whether it is really a threat.