Why bother getting a patent if you cannot enforce it?
IP enforcement insurance is the first step that any entrepreneur needs to take when they think about getting a patent. This advice applies to everyone from an independent inventor to startup company to a big corporation.
Enforcement insurance is the first step to turn an expensive patent into a valuable business weapon.
Patents are a store of value
Patents are one way that you store the value of your company. Your ingenuity, effort, and persistence culminate in an invention that is captured in a patent.
Your patents capture your competitive advantage. Your patent assets are the value that your business brings to the marketplace. They are the reason why a customer buys your product over a competitor.
Patents are the valuable assets on which your business is based.
But patents come at a cost.
The cost of the patent is not the money you pay to your patent attorney, it comes at the cost of disclosing your trade secrets to the world.
Now that your patent is published for all the world to see, competitors are free to read your patent and try to improve on it. This is the fundamental basis of the patent system: we disclose our inventions to the public and we are granted a temporary right – the patent – to keep others from copying it.
This is true – only if you have the *ability* to enforce your patent.
But I don’t want to be a patent troll…
Having patent insurance – the ability to enforce your patent – does not mean you are a patent troll. It just means you are a legitimate business person that has a competitive advantage protected by a patent.
Patent insurance means you have the ability to fairly compete in the marketplace – even against much larger competitors.
Patent insurance means your legal rights will not be trampled on by larger, better funded corporations.
The point of having patent insurance is to have the *ability* to enforce, not to be a patent troll.
Do I need to wait until my patent is issued before I insure it?
You should get insurance as early as the date you file the patent application.
One of the key parts of patent enforcement insurance is that they do not pay for “pre-existing conditions.” This means you need to have insurance in place *before* someone infringes.
Infringement happens in two scenarios:
In one scenario, someone else stumbles onto the same idea that you have. This could be a large corporate R&D division that are looking into the same problem as you, or it could be an independent inventor or startup company.
The other scenario (and often the more likely scenario) is that someone sees your invention and decides to copy it or improve it. In this case, you bring the idea to a competitor’s attention and they agree with your problem and solution.
Maybe you displayed your product at a tradeshow or did some advertising online. Maybe you entered into negotiations with a strategic partner and the negotiations broke off.
In any case, having insurance means that you *can* enforce your patent. It means that you have the strength to force competitors to quit stealing. It means that your licensing agreements have teeth. It means that you are a good businessperson.