Patents and Business: Solutions for Innovators

Control, protect and exploit your inventions and other great ideas. Learn about invention laws, get patent protection and find professional help.

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The Cinderella of Intellectual Property: Trade Secrets as a Federal Claim?

Will Congress amend the Economic Espionage Act to provide for a private federal cause of action? Read the article by attorney Andrew K. Jacobson.

Google and the Patent Pools

Read the story about the Motorola patent acquisition by patent attorney Timothy J. Maier.

IP Rights at Auction

Learn the basics about IP auctions, covenants not to sue, and patent aggregation, written by patent attorney Timothy J. Maier.

Patent "Reform" Enacted 


On September 16, 2011, President Obama signed into effect the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act. Although referred to as “patent reform,” commentators have noted that the Act does little to “reform” the problems associated with the patent system—notably, an underfunded PTO, inadequate examination procedures, and burdensome litigation. In the end, the Act contained quite a bit of special interest policy-making that favors large companies over independent inventors. The major change of the Act is that the U.S. switches to a first-to-file system on March 16, 2013, 18 months after enactment. You'll find a summary of the Act's provisions here and we also provide a timeline detailing when the changes in the Act go into effect. 

[EXCLUSIVE: Patent attorney David Pressman, author of Patent It Yourself, weighs in with his analysis of the AIA.]

Small Entities and Micro Entities: What's the Difference?

(from the Dear Rich blog

Dear Rich: I waited until after the new patent law passed to file a provisional patent application I wanted the new micro-entity fees to go into effect. But when I went to pay, yesterday, I wasn’t given a choice for micro-entity, only small entity. I ended up paying more to file than before the law was passed.  Your timeline for the patent law says that the micro entity fees go into effect immediately. What’s going on? Welcome to patent ‘reform.’ Our timeline is correct. Section 10 of  the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act establishes that the new micro entity fees will go effect immediately upon enactment (September 16, 2011). Alas, patent filers who sought to take advantage of the reduced micro entity fees -- for example, the fee for filing a provisional patent application would be approximately $65 – were out of luck. The USPTO issued a press release explaining the delay. The micro entity fees are expected to be available March 19, 2013. 

Why did you pay more? The law also establishes that a 15% fee increase goes into effect 10 days after enactment (that is, September 26, 2011). Apparently, the USPTO had no problem implementing the increases and a new fee schedule was rolled out on time. As a result, independent inventors like yourself are actually paying $15 more to file a provisional patent application, than before the law was "reformed."

P.S. Wondering what qualifies as a micro entity and how it differs from a small entity? Here's an explanation.

Should Startup Seek Business Method Patent?

Dear Rich: I'd like some pointers on which book(s) or blogs I could read that address patenting business methods. Also I'd like to hear your take on this, is it something a startup should invest in before commencing any development of the idea (in form of software). We previously posted an article about business method patents that may help and we recently had a blog entry on the subject. David Pressman's Patent It Yourself also discusses BMPs in some detail.

Should you talk to a lawyer? We think that if you're a startup, you owe it to your investors to have a patent attorney review your business method to determine two things: (1) whether it's commercial (especially whether it is likely to be commercial in 2-3 years which is how long it will take to get the patent), and (2) whether it's patentable. We can't help you with whether it's commercial but as for whether it's patentable there are a few things to consider:

  • Filing Deadlines. There are time limits for filing -- currently, you can't file if you published or sold the method more than a year before filing; that time limit will change after March 16, 2013; 
  • Time and money. It takes time and money to get a patent.  Assuming the USPTO grants your patent (and the failure rate is about 50%), it takes 2-3 years during which time you can't stop others. And it can be expensive!
  • Endangered species. Business method patents are running into more and more challenges and may be much harder to obtain after enactment of the America Invents Act

All that said, many startups were built on software and business method patents, so we urge you to get professional advice.