So you’ve finally received the long-awaited approval from the USPTO for your patent. Congratulations! At this point, many businesses mistakenly believe they can simply frame the certificate and kick back as production and business growth takes off.
However, this is a big mistake. A patent must be carefully maintained in order to hold its efficacy. Not only that, but the mere presence of a patent won’t stop others from encroaching on your intellectual property. You have to actively protect it.
The more valuable a patent, the more likely maintenance will require substantial cost and effort. However, if you’re able to turn your patent into a valuable product or service, the cost in time and money for maintenance is well worth it.
Here are three things to keep in mind as you plan out your patent maintenance plan:
1: Maintenance Fees with the USPTO
US utility patents are in force for 20 years from the earliest file date. However, a patent will expire earlier if maintenance fees aren’t paid. These fees must be submitted to the USPTO after 4 years, 8 years, and 12 years. More information about maintenance can be found on the US Patent Office’s website. If fees aren’t paid in time, it’s possible to petition to reinstate an expired patent, but this can be a difficult process.
How much will the maintenance fees be? This will depend on the time period when you renew your patent, as well as the size of the filing entity. You can view current fees here.
2: Maintain Legal Protection
Depending on the competition in your market, it may be necessary to actively protect your intellectual property. Remember that a patent alone isn’t protection against encroachment. Rather, it’s a certificate; a tool that you can bring to bear when protecting your rights. Each year, you may have to (1) actively enforce your intellectual property by identifying those encroaching on territory protected by your patent, and then serving them with warning, and (2) protect yourself from outside challengers who issue you warnings or lawsuits.
Going to court to protect your patent will require a closer look at legal history of precedents, and possibly an infringement search. These fees can stack up, so it’s important to closely track the value of your patent and the costs of maintaining legal protection. In some cases, it may be worth having IP insurance in order to regulate these costs going forward.
3: Widen Your Protection with International Patents
Unfortunately, a US Patent won’t protect your intellectual property overseas. It’s only enforceable within the United States. If your product expands into international waters, you may want to apply for patents in other countries as well. There is no such thing as a global patent that will protect you everywhere, but some high-value patents that many US companies apply for are Japanese and Chinese patents, European patents, and even Brazilian patents. The value of each will depend on your business plan and your market. Also, using a Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) application helps standardize and streamline the process for pursuing patent protection in about 152 countries.
Maintaining a patent can be a big job and an expensive undertaking. Here at Global Patent Solutions, we help inventors and businesses estimate the cost of patent protection and maintenance, as well as the value of the patent, so that they can make wise business decisions moving forward. Our patent search services can also help you identify possible patent infringers, and evaluate new market opportunities in other countries.
Contact us to learn more.