Patents Need to Track Your Product Strategy

If a patent has any business value, it must relate to concrete, real products that add value to people’s lives. Patents that cover hypothetical ideas and wishful thinking have no commercial value whatsoever.

Whether you write patents to defend a product space, enhance your company’s value, create “trading card” assets for negotiating with competitors or other patent owners, or any other reason, patent claims with distinct, direct commercial impact is important.

In my experience, virtually all patentees and patent attorneys alike subscribe to the “set it and forget it” mantra. They write a patent during a moment of insight and innovation, and over the years of building a product and getting it to market, the product morphs and changes. However, these changes are rarely fed back to the patent attorney/agent who is prosecuting the patent before the patent examiner.

When there is a conscious and systematic mechanism to keep the patent attorney/agent involved with the business, the agent can steer the patent towards commercially useful claims. These claims are based on what the business has learned over the years the patent has been pending. Provided that the changes and improvements were anticipated when the patent application was written, the resulting patent will be commercially relevant and therefore will have some value.

I prefer to be involved on two levels: strategic and tactical. On the strategic level, I have a board-level advisory role where we can understand the company focus and direction. I can assess the patent protection against the company goals, and may suggest adding new assets, tailoring existing assets, or abandoning/selling assets that may no longer apply.

On the tactical level, I need to be involved at the product management level. When I understand the key elements of a product, I can tailor the patents under examination to the immediate business and product knowledge.