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Doing business with patents: How to avoid them and when to use them

In a hypothetical scenario you and your R&D team have come up with a solution for a manufacturing process, which is easier, cheaper or faster in a novel manner. Do you need a patent to employ it in your business? No. Does a patent give you the right to manufacture and/or sell your product? Under no circumstances.

Then what is a patent good for?

The short answer is: to prevent competition. A patent does not give you the right to commercialize your invention, but it will stop others from doing so. This is an intangible asset which can provide your business with a unique opportunity to grow. An innovative and profitable technology is something competitors would want to use. And the only way to keep it within the boundaries of your business is to protect it with a patent.

Maybe your business is not driven by innovation and you are offering a well-established product. You still need to ensure that it is IP free in the place of manufacturing. And what about the manufacturing process itself or the starting materials?

A successful product or manufacturing process may be patent-protected by the same token it would make sense for you to own IP rights for something useful and innovative. Taking into account that a patent may last for 20 years, your business might relate to something well-established, but you may still not be “off the hook” for a critical time span of 2-3 years.