Creating unique products with genuine benefits for customers can be expensive. Patents can help to protect your investment in new product design and development by blocking competitors from designing identical or similar products. However, if you’re looking to enter new markets or release new products yourself, patents held by competitors can create significant obstacles. That’s why it’s essential to understand both the risks and opportunities created by patents.
Protect Your Business from Costly Legal Battles
If a patent is overlooked and a product develops that violates a competitor’s patent, you run the risk of derailing the whole project and potentially having to pay out large sums in damages. Just take the case of Abbot Laboratories; they were ordered to pay Johnson & Johnson $1.67 billion due to their drug, Humira, infringing on J&J’s patent.
It’s true that most disputes do not result in such a hefty payout, but they always amount to time and money for a business. And the thing is, if you discover the patent issue before launching the product, you’re left with the bad option of launching the product and potentially facing a big legal battle, starting from scratch, or terminating the project altogether. To prevent any of these from happening, the solution is to take the time to understand the patent situation from the very start of the development process.
Why Understanding Patents Is Crucial in Product Development
It is obvious that research, finding, and reviewing patents are all essential elements of product development. But when you’re presented with thousands of potential outcomes of your search, what is the most effective way to innovate without getting overwhelmed by reading through loads of detailed specs?
At 4D Products, we’ve come up with three primary strategies that we use for new developments, in order to help our clients evade infringement and receive effective patents. The strategy we choose partly depends on the type of product, the sector you’re in, and the patent landscape.
- This method is perfect if you desire to create something outside-the-box that is different from your competition. It is most viable in industries and with product types that move at a more leisurely pace, minimising the chances of patent conflicts and battles.The Invent and Check method concentrates on creating new ideas that offer a user advantage. This system allows for ideas to be produced quickly and affordably, often generating more than one new concept. Once these have been evaluated and have potential, a patent search is done to make sure there are no similar patents — and if there aren’t, a patent application can be prepared and filed. If there are similar patents, all the details must be reviewed to decide whether the new design infringes or not.
If it does, then the design must be changed to prevent infringing (see Identify and Avoid below). Since this process takes place in the early stages, any changes can be carried out without too much time or expense. The time and effort spent in assessing the patents for the new design at the early stages of development can save the cost and pain of having to defend a patent infringement action later on if the product is developed and sold in a way which infringes a competitor’s patent.
It does not guarantee success but can minimise the risk.
- A lot of the time, new breakthroughs come about because a competitor found success with a new invention or product. Usually, this impressive feature is protected by a patent. That’s why the Identify and Avoid method is used. First, you search for the patents related to the product you’re interested in. After that, you go through the claim terms to find out what is and isn’t included in the patent.Knowing this information gives you the power to create alternatives that offer the same result but stay away from infringement. This requires a deep understanding of the technology and the fundamentals of patent law.
Once we come up with solutions that we’re sure won’t break any laws, we get a legally certified opinion from a patent lawyer that confirms the non-infringement. Then, we do a thorough patent search on our new design to make sure that other patents won’t cause us any trouble. Every now and then, our alternate, non-infringing solution is either too complex or expensive, prompting us to put a stop to development.
Although this rarely occurs, it’s best to find this out sooner rather than later so a well-informed commercial decision can be made.
- This approach is particularly useful when a range of technologies and patents from numerous competitors might have a bearing on the new product. A patent search is used to find the areas with patents and to get an overall grasp on the patents and the attributes and functions they involve.At the same time, multiple ideas are developed to offer user and business advantages (similarly to the Invent and Check method). All of these concepts are then evaluated against the patents that have been discovered.
Choosing the most appropriate product concept to work on becomes simpler with two criteria: how easy it is to dodge the patents and whether the idea is patentable. We then let a patent lawyer double-check that our design doesn’t violate any of the patents, while additionally running a wider search to determine the patentability of the design.
The Hidden Benefits of Patents: How They Can Inform Your Product Strategy and Development Plan
Patents more than just safeguard inventions. They can offer helpful data on the inventions other people are making. One of the conditions for getting a patent is to give enough detail to understand how to create the invention. Therefore, they highlight plentiful details regarding competitors’ technologies, and also give a good sense of the product strategy and development plan.
Even if you’re not considering starting a new product development right away, keeping an eye on new patents can set you up for planning your techniques and give you a jump-start when devising your subsequent product.
Here at 4D Products, it’s part of our routine to aid our partners in avoiding patent contention and providing original product designs with intellectual property. If you have any doubts about the information in this article or on the different ways to prevent patents for your projects, don’t hesitate to give us a call.