Developing an eco system approach to patent filings
It is not uncommon for companies to file different types of patents that work “in concert” to protect an inventive concept. Often, this is referred to as a “patent landscape” or “patent eco system.” The basic idea of developing a patent eco system is to identify aspects of a product that are needed for market success, and then protect these aspects in such a way that it is cheaper for a potential competitor to “go through you rather than around you,” for example, by them licensing your patents.
As a simple example of a “patent eco system,” consider a product and its packaging. One way to protect such a combination can be, for example, having a utility patent directed to the core product itself, one or more utility patents directed to specific aspects or features of the product, a design patent on the product, a utility patent on the package, and a design patent on the package. This patent eco system can optionally be complemented with a trademark for the product as well to develop a brand identity for the product. In some situations, it may also be appropriate to include method claims in the utility patent that are directed to how the product operates or is used.
Developing such a patent eco system for one or more core products for a company can yield significant benefits, and should thus not be taken lightly. Often, it is only the engineering staff of the company that is involved in the discussions with the patent professionals. However, this can be a mistake, because in deciding what kind of patent eco system to create, it is also important to involve higher management of the company. These people may not necessarily have the same detailed technical knowledge about the product as the engineering staff, but they have a very good understanding of the “big picture” for the company and how patents might fit into their vision for the company.
Therefore, I cannot strongly enough recommend the idea of having a patent strategy discussion early on in the process, in which people from different facets of the company are involved in a “brainstorming” session together with their patent professional to develop ideas of how to best protect their intellectual property. This plan can then be reviewed/revised periodically, and as new products become available to ensure that the company maintains the market advantage created by their intellectual property portfolio.
Mollborn Patents | Patent Protection Made Easy
Fredrik Mollborn has been helping companies protect their intellectual assets since 1997 in the U.S. and abroad. If you are looking to secure your intellectual property, reach out to Mollborn Patents for a consultation.