Why Holding a Patent Doesn’t Guarantee Exclusivity

It’s natural to assume that once you’ve come up with a winning idea and patented it, you’re golden. These days, anyone with creative vision and a decent patent proofreading software suite has the potential to set themselves up with a real money-maker. But at the same time, this doesn’t mean you’re on easy-street the moment the patent is granted.

One of the biggest problems faced by inventors is the natural presumption that merely owning a patent effectively adds up to having a monopoly. You create something, you file a patent application and that’s that. In reality, things aren’t quite so simple. The reality is that even though you may have an issued patent, you must enforce it in court to prevent your competitors from using your invention.  However, patent litigation is both very expensive and complicated and your success depends largely on the scope of the claims in your patent.

Small Tweaks, Big Difference

The scope of your rights in patent is defined by the claims. Every word matters. If your competitor is not practicing even a single limitation in your claims, they likely do not infringe your patent.  This essentially means that if anyone wishes to do so, they can copy most of your patented idea and get away with it, as long as they stay outside the bounds of your patent claims. Just a few changes here and there technically add up to a completely new invention in the eyes of the law.

One that’s similar to yours, but not identical. The problem being that whoever it is that decides to run with your idea, they might improve upon it. Or make it cheaper. Or find a way of making more of it and distributing it on a bigger scale.

When you think about it, this is the way the free market has always worked. Everything we have access to today is an upgraded version of something else. Hence, you can’t simply rely on a patent filing to grant you a monopoly or guarantee your success.

Instead, it’s the job of every business owner and inventor to ensure that they continuously improve whatever it is they’ve created, in order to remain a step ahead of the competition. A patent filing matters, but it’s not the end of the journey. If anything, it’s more like the beginning.

Posted in Law