Not all ideas are BIG ideas. But if you think you have one, it’s important you fully protect it. And that may require building what I refer to as a “wall of protection”.
Some ideas are simply bigger than others. If you believe that the potential for your product idea is large (after you’ve done your homework and studied the marketplace thoroughly!), then you must consider how to protect it. A lot of inventors believe that one patent is enough. This not true. If you truly have a “big” idea, you’re going to need multiple patents.
Why is this the case? Take my “big” product idea, the rotating label Spinformation. I now have 12 patents on the technology. There are many different types of label formats. I built a wall of patents that address each type of these formats. Each patent has a large number of claims, many of which build on claims established in earlier patents. I filed patents on all types of label formats, not just the one I intended to use and actually manufacture Spinformation on. I wanted to prevent the competition from designing around the claims I established. These patents were defensive!
It was very important that I understood how every type of label was made – not my attorneys. If you truly want to protect your idea, you must educate yourself about the industry in which you’re designing. Relying on others to do the job will not be as effective. I created packets of information for my attorneys about what claims I wanted to make. Attorneys are only as good as the information you provide them with – so give them absolutely everything that is relative!
Having a wall of patents is also a valuable defensive strategy simply because of the statement it makes. Before an individual or company decides to design around or use your invention, they will investigate the patents you have on it. Having more than one or two patents sends a clear message: you’re invested in the protection of your idea and will go to great lengths to defend it. And if this is the case, companies will be much less likely to infringe because it simply just isn’t worth it. Make sure your claims are not too narrow. If they are, a company may be much less daunted to design around your patents.
Building a wall of patents helps you prepare for a fight before one has even begun. However, it is important that you only undertake this sort of preparation if you really have a big idea and if you have the funds to do so!
Stephen Key is a successful award-winning inventor who has licensed over 20 products in the past 25 years. Along with business partner Andrew Krauss, Stephen runs inventRight, a company dedicated to educating inventors about selling their ideas and the skills needed to succeed. You can ask questions and get advice on the inventRight forum, check out the resource center, and listen to the weekly radio show on inventing. Get In The News, list your invention to have media outlets find you for news stories.