Anyone who has invented an item can obtain intellectual property protection for it through a patent. According to the TRIPS Agreement, patents are to be granted to any items which are new, include an inventive step, and have one or more industrial uses. Through the use of a patent, its owner receives exclusive rights to the production and sale of that invention. A patent owner may also permit others to produce or sell the invention through licensing.
Patent owners generally seek to have the strongest possible degree of patent protection. The stronger the patent, the more valuable and enforceable it becomes. For this reason, patent owners should make use of any of several methods of strengthening patent protection.
Research Prior and Competing Art
Prior art is defined as evidence that an invention is already known. In most cases, prior art takes the form of an existing product. However, prior art may exist in any form. It does not even necessarily have to either be commercially available or exist physically. By researching prior art, patent owners will learn more about patent claims and descriptions of related concepts and products. Patent owners can then use these claims and descriptions to strengthen their own.
Competing art refers to inventions which are dissimilar from a specific patented item but serve the same or a similar purpose. Research of competing art will allow patent owners to determine the primary differences between their own products and the competing art. Examining ideas and solutions related to the competing art will generate more knowledge of product advantages and weaknesses. This information will in turn strengthen the patent.
Make Proper Claims and Update Them
A claim is a statement which defines the novelty and utility of a patented item. To make a proper claim which provides the most strength to a patent, the claim should neither be too specific nor too general. An overly specific claim is likely to restrict the patent’s enforceability. A claim which is too general, on the other hand, risks rejection because it may cause the invention to no longer be viewed as novel in the eyes of intellectual property authorities. The better the claims that accompany the patented item, the more difficult it usually becomes for others to use, reproduce, or modify the item.
It is also important to update claims according to market and legal changes. A claim which may once have provided ample patent protection may no longer do so after such changes occur. Therefore, at some point after filing the initial patent application and its associated claims, the patent owner should file continuations which maintain the level of patent protection provided.
Apply for Similar Patents
Those who have applied for a patent to protect their invention might assume that their invention is fully protected by just one patent. While this is technically true, it is typically much more advisable to apply for multiple patents for products similar to the relevant invention. By doing so, a patent owner may make it more difficult for others to create variations and modifications of the existing invention. This way, others may be more inclined to pay the patent owner to use the invention instead of creating their own versions.
Before applying for similar patents, a patent owner must ensure that at least some of the patents are for manufacturable items. It may also be helpful to patent relevant manufacturing methods. Before patenting any methods, the patent owner should first identify the most efficient of these methods. Prioritizing the patenting of more efficient methods will make reproduction by external entities more unlikely; this would therefore be likely to strengthen the patent.
Consider How Others Might Attack the Patent
To further strengthen a patent, its owner should consider how others might attack it. It is important to think about the reasons why the patent might be rejected by intellectual property authorities such as its utility, novelty, and extent of inventiveness. The patent owner should then determine how these traits of the patented invention can be proven and provide such proof, if possible.
Patent owners should also consider what competitors might do to the patented item. Competitors would typically seek to profit by using items with similar designs and concepts. By explicitly distinguishing their invention from those of competitors, a patent owner may become more able to increase the degree of protection which the patent provides.
This article is brought to you by Exy Intellectual Property Malaysia and Singapore.