Despite what you may have heard, patents continue to foster competition and innovation and are essential to success in technology driven markets.  To operate successfully in these markets, in-house counsel, program managers, Chief Technical Officers, and other executives in technology companies should know a few basics about patents and implementing a patent program.

Have a Plan

To successfully develop a patent portfolio, you have start with a plan.  A sound patent strategy is one that is aligned with your company’s business goals.  Questions to consider include: does the company wish to aggressively prevent others from making and using their technology?  Does the company want to use patents to increase company value?  Is the company in a business sector with litigious competitors?  What do competitor patent portfolios look like?  Does the company plan to implement an offensive IP plan or a defensive IP plan?  The answers to these questions can help start-up companies, international conglomerates, and every company in between develop a road map for developing the patent portfolio that best suits their needs and business objectives.

Stay in Touch with your Patent Attorney

Things change, whether it be products, company personnel, the market, and competitors.  Your patent attorney should be kept informed of these changes to offer you the best advice possible.  I like to meet with my clients at least once a quarter to discuss product releases that should be considered for protection, competitor products and lawsuit activity, updated business goals and markets, and even key personnel changes.  Each of these may be opportunities to update and improve your patent portfolio strategy. 

Educate your Team

A strong and motivated team makes for a strong patent program.  Engineers are the key to your technology and should be active agents in your patent program.  I provide educational seminars for my client’s technical staff to educate them on patents and other IP.  The seminars cover topics such as what is patentable, when should companies consider applying for a patent, how to handle a cease and desist letter, how to deal with patent trolls, and how to address a competitor that is infringing your IP.  Employees take pride in helping their company succeed in the marketplace, and taking active roles in the company patent program is one way they can help.

Patents are a necessity in today’s technology markets.  By having a plan, keeping your patent attorney informed of current developments with your business and market, and enlisting your technology teams to participate in developing your patent portfolio, any executive can be successful in developing a patent portfolio that increases company value while supporting their business goals, and thereby assist their company to succeed in today’s market.