Geographical scope and content-related scope determine the range of your patent protection.
As soon as your patent is granted, you have the right to exclusively utilize your invention, issue licenses, and prohibit others from using your invention.
But please be aware that your invention is only protected in countries with a valid patent family member (i.e. the amount of patents belonging together or leading back to the same priority document). For example, a German patent granted by the DPMA does not facilitate protection in the US market. Solely, a US patent can protect your invention the United States.
The scope and value of the intellectual property protection increases with the size of the patent family. Especially, when intending to sell your property right, a large patent family plays a significant role. A patent family that is valid only in a small geographical market and, thus, offers only a small geographical scope of patent protection is practically worthless for an international bidder. At the same time, a large patent family implies high costs – at the time of filing as well as through yearly maintenance fees.
The European patent is not a back door solution for the problem described above. It is not a patent that is valid all over Europe. In fact, it just stands for a route of applying for the patent that can save time and money during the application process, when seeking protection in quite a number of European states. The European patent is split in a bundle of national patents as soon it is granted and validated in member states of the European Patent Convention. Right now, plans to create a unitary EU patent are in the making. However, no decisions about the time of introduction have been made so far.
Thus, it is very important to consider where to pursue patent protection. A PCT application can help to postpone the decision about relevant national markets – but this does not come without costs.
Your patent attorney will advise you regarding the best patent strategy and will define with you in which regions a protection is necessary and reasonable.
Besides the geographical range, the scope of the patent content plays a major role in order to assess how strong your protection actually is. First and foremost, this can be deduced from patent claims specified in your application filing documents. The more far-reaching your claims, the stronger the protection of your intellectual property. On the one hand, the number of claims can relevant for this. On the other hand, the phrasing of claims is very important.
Additionally, the number of related patents across different patent families is a sign for the strength and scope of patent protection. Although, in general, one patent protects one invention, there is some space to safeguard and support your central patent with related applications in the same technological environment. Thereby, the goal is to prevent competitors from going around your property right. Thus, you should also consider to apply for more than just one patent.
Both scenarios above make a good case to seek help from a trained professional when framing your patent strategy. The patent attorney can appraise how to phrase the claims of your application in order to distinguish your invention from the state of the art, while at the same time protecting your invention as deliberately as possible.
The better he understands your invention, the better the prospects for a patent grant and the enforcement of your property rights. Our patent attorney finder assists you to choose the best representative of your invention.
Enforcement of Your Property Right
What can you use your property right for? When holding a patent, an applicant can prevent others from using his invention. In order to enforce your right in practice, you probably have to institute legal proceedings in case of violation. This leads to further costs! So, when applying for a patent you should not only possess enough capital to pay for application and maintenance fees, but also have a budget at disposal for potential legal conflicts.
This encompasses active and passive enforcement. A third party, e.g. a competitor, might file an opposition or action of revocation in order to attack your property right. It is possible that it is not even the attacker’s goal to abolish your right, but to produce costs that can ruin you and push your business out of the market.
In case you are unable to defend your property right because of financial reasons, the patent basically fulfills a signaling function only. It signals your technological competence and creativity to investors, customers, licensees, and suppliers. For start-ups, this signaling function can be of tremendous value, regardless of the actual amount at trial in a law suit or when selling the invention/company.
If the signaling function is irrelevant for you and your resources are limited, it might be worthwhile to alternative protecting mechanisms instead of a patent.
- Consider only local markets where patent protection is worth the trouble.
- The value of a patent increases along with the size of the patent family.
- An EP patent is not an EU patent.
- Patent claims are very important for the scope of patent protection.
- If you are unable to defend your patent, it simply fulfills a signaling function.