One may think that patent trolls target only big businesses with deep pockets. Not so. Small and medium-sized businesses increasingly are finding themselves on the receiving end of patent infringement lawsuit filings.
Patent trolls are individuals or businesses that secure patents on inventions with no intention of producing or using them. Rather, they wait until another entity attempts to put a similar invention into commercial practice, then strike with costly patent infringement lawsuits. Also known as non-practicing entities, patent trolls often target smaller businesses with settlement offers just under what litigation likely would cost, knowing that their victims are more likely to pay up rather than take a chance on a court fight.
If you're the owner or manager of small or medium-sized business with an idea for a new invention, here are three ways to protect your company and your patent:
- Do your homework first: Many inventors simply assume that their ideas are truly unique. Unfortunately, that's often not the case. Before attempting to put any new product or service on the market, it's critical that you conduct a thorough search to assure that someone else hasn't already patented the same idea or one that's dangerously similar. Otherwise, your investment in the invention and its marketing may be all for naught.
- Insure: The boost in patent infringement lawsuits over the past decade has prompted multiple insurance companies to offer intellectual property insurance policies to businesses. It's a wise financial move if you plan to develop and offer new innovations.
- Consult an attorney: Your best bet in securing and defending a valid patent is to consult with an attorney from the beginning. Patent law can be complex and there are multiple factors that may come into play, many of which are widely unknown to the public, but very familiar to patent attorneys. Though it doesn't come cheap, legal counsel potentially can save you tens of thousands of dollars in the long run if you are targeted with a law suit.