Filing a patent is not always advisable for an invention, even if the patentability conditions are generally met.
First, why might it make sense not to seek patent protection (or, if possible to pursue alternative protection mechanisms)?
- If you cannot or do not want to defend your patent after grant: If your patent is attacked by a third party, significant costs may occur. Also it can be expensive if you want to prohibit unauthorized use of your invention.
- If a disclosure makes it possible for a third party to conceive your invention in the first place: When filing a patent application you reveal information that will allow others to understand and maybe recreate your invention. If a reproduction is not possible without specific knowledge that only you have, secrecy can provide better protection.
- If your invention can be circumvented anyway: Can your invention be bypassed on similar procedures that are not protected or protectable? Then you will only gain limited protection by your patent. An imitation in a similar way then remains possible for third parties.
- If the product, which utilizes the invention, is too complex to fully protect it: Is your invention based on a variety of elements that would need to be protected individually? Then patent protection would be very, very expensive. In this case it is advisable to protect only certain particularly important parts of your product by a patent and to pursue a combination of alternative protection mechanisms.
Of course, there are also very good reasons for patent protection. Why apply for a patent?
To prevent others from filing a patent for your invention: If someone else holds the right to exclude others from using a certain technology, this patentee can also limit your use of your own invention. Thus, patents prevent the theft of your invention.
To grant licenses: If you do not consider to commercialize your invention yourself but others might have an interest in your invention, a patent is an important precondition for the conclusion of a license agreement. This can also be done without patent (especially in the case of software licensing), but you have significantly better conditions for licensing your technology when owning a property right.
To prohibit others from using the technology: With a patent you get the right to exclude others from using your invention for a limited period of time of usually 20 years. If you or your company do have sufficient financial resources in order to claim your right, the patent is the ultimate basis for this.
To impress: Investors, customers, or business partners will appreciate the patent protection of your invention. While it has only an indirect impact on your business success, this argument should not to be underestimated in some case.
For strategic reasons: An application that you have filed cannot be filed by others. So you can, for example, seek protection for solutions which are located in the surroundings of your actual invention although you even do not intend to use it. This strategy makes it impossible for others to claim a particular invention. Or you safeguard a technological area which may be important in the future. However, an alternative might be the publication of your knowledge, because then, again, others cannot seek patent protection because the knowledge counts as prior art.
It becomes obvious that there is not the one single reason for a patent application. Consider carefully what goal you want to pursue and seek the advice of experienced patent experts before submitting a patent application. Not only does this affect the quality of your application, but it will also determine your overall protection strategy.