Sophisticated patent owners take a very proactive approach to managing their patent portfolios.
Patents are assets with a 20 year lifespan. They will almost always outlast the products and services that were the inspiration for the inventions, and their usefulness may not actually be realized until many years after they are filed.
Because of the extended life of the patent, curating the inventions and constructing a patent portfolio is a much more difficult and inexact science than merely writing patents around the products that you happen to ship.
A three prong approach can be:
1. “Forward patenting” sessions are where the business and technology teams strategize about the state of the market 5 or more years into the future. These sessions can generate many interesting ideas that, with careful patent drafting, can be foundational patents that disrupt and control your market for years to come. There are many useful questions to ask and things to think about when brainstorming a forward patenting session.
2. “Protect the product” patents are those that are meant to keep immediate competitors from your marketplace. Here, we look at what competitors might attack the market space with their technologies and marketing efforts, and we try to keep them out of the space with well crafted patents.
3. “Problem solved on the way” patents are often the most overlooked and yet most valuable ideas. As you are developing a product, there are often problems that need to be solved in order to deliver the product. These problems are often excellent chokepoints which all competitors will have to solve. By having patents on these chokepoints, the market can be effectively controlled even if the “protect the product” patents are not granted. These solutions are also good candidates to consider for outbound licensing.