Value of a patent: the cost-benefit analysis

Will your patent justify your time and money?

This is where you can benefit from a consultation to a patent attorney who understands your technology and has your best interest in mind.

The truth is virtually anything can be patented … if you don’t mind what is claimed in the patent.

In other words, you sufficiently narrow the scope of your claims to meet the requirements of the patent issuance, and the grant of patent is granted. Unfortunately, this is what you likely get from a cheap flat-fee patent prosecution services.

The quality of patent matters.

When the scope of patent claims is too narrow, you won’t get much from the patent. Let’s say you “discovered” a new chemical. When this chemical is added to a fuel, the efficiency of any internal combustion engine can be increased by more than 50 percent. Now, you’ve got to patent it.

You can patent a fuel additive containing the chemical.

Well, that is too narrow because it would not prevent others from selling fuels (not a fuel additive) containing the chemical. It seems you simply handed over the technology to the energy companies as no one would buy your patented fuel additive.

Then, should you claim the chemical itself?

Not really. When the chemical is not artificial, which is the case here because we assumed that it was “discovered” (not synthesized), it is not a patentable subject.

Let’s talk about the cost.

The government fees can start from a couple hundreds (as you might get discount for being a small business) to thousands of dollars. In fact, it depends on various factors like the number of claims and the length of the application.

Now the patent practitioner’s fees

I don’t recommend a flat fee arrangement unless you know what you’re doing. In other words, you should have sufficient knowledge to meaningfully get involved in the prosecution. Hourly charges vary widely (i.e. from hundreds to more than a thousand), and also the time. Therefore, you should find one you can trust and talk about the cost in advance.

What good comes with the patent application?

In the past, the customers were intrigued by the mere fact that it’s “patent pending,” but I don’t think that still works.

  1. You will thwart competitors from copying your invention although they can be quick to design around your invention (like selling fuels instead of additives).
  2. You will also prevent others from patenting the same technology.
  3. As you do a preliminary work (like clearance search), you will better understand the technology and the market.
  4. Don’t forget the value of intellectual property as an asset. When you’re selling your business, a mere know-how isn’t exactly same as the patent, which is a property right.
  5. If others are interested in licensing your tech, you can also expect a royalty.

By Youngsik Jeon, Esq.

J.D. Chicago-Kent College of Law; Georgia & Illinois Bar Member; USPTO Registered Patent Attorney