Think of the names Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, Henry Ford, James Watt and Guglielmo Marconi and you think of inventions which changed the world. But did you know that in each instance, they were not the first to create that with which their name has become synonymous? Joseph Swan (lightbulb), Bill Gates(tablet computer), Karl Benz (motorcar), Thomas Newcomen (steam engine) and Russia’s very own Alexander Stepanovich Popov (radio) came before them.
These are just a few examples of the turbulent world of intellectual property. So why do some inventors succeed where others fail? Why did their ‘invention’ stick whilst others disappeared?
Put simply, they were the first to register and protect that invention with a patent. A patent successful prevents others from stealing, copying and making money from your ‘intellectual property’.
So, you have an invention? The first thing you must do is protect it. Here, the law is essential to your success. But why? With a successful patent comes protection. It means no one can sell or manufacture your invention unless you allow it.
There are complex waters which need navigating to be successfully granted a patent. What protection do you need? Where do you want it to be protected? Is my invention patentable? So many questions, but can you provide all the answers? It would be foolish not to utilise the skills and experience of experts such as Prof-patent to guide you.
In addition, the worlds of innovation and business have become more competitive. Today, we are more likely to see instances of small incremental improvements of existing designs than an entirely new invention. Take the ‘smartphone’ as an example, ubiquitous today but only 40 years ago the ‘mobile phone’ was revolutionary. But how many iterations have there been since that first brick-sized device? SMS, MMS, cameras, processors, operating systems, touch screens, haptics, GPS and waterproofing. Each and every new improvement protected with a specific individual patent.
As most ‘inventions’ these days are not completely new, the law offers a solution which is less arduous to achieve than a full patent, but may serve you just as well. The ‘Utility model’ in the Russian Federation can be described as a ‘second-class patent.’It offers you similar rights but with less stringent requirements than a full ‘patent’. It is available for a maximum 10-year term (as opposed to a 20-year patent term), and excludes certain classes of invention such as animal or plant culture, substance or micro-organism. But there is no substantive examination procedure and this means there is much less delay from application to granting of the Utility model patent in the Russian Federation.
Again, this is where Utility model protection requires expert guidance. If the application for the Utility model is not executed correctly then protection will not be provided if prosecution or litigation is ever instigated. In addition to this, if the patent has already been granted to another or the invention is already for sale or known, then no patent (Utility model or otherwise) will offer protection. It is these pitfalls which make it an absolute necessity to engage with a patent attorney. They can advise you which patent is in your best interests to apply for. They can carry out a preliminary patent search to ensure your invention is patentable. They can do this all with unclouded judgement that you, with a vested interest, may struggle to achieve. Their experience is valuable in dealing with these complex procedures.
After a patent or Utility model has been granted there are further considerations. Patent annual maintenance fees must be paid. Litigation may be needed to enforce against potential infringement. If you wish to licence your invention, contracts will need to be drawn up that ensure no unintended rights are conferred on the licensee.
The most challenging aspect is that you will not really know if the actions you undertook when making your initial application are correct until it is too late. The onus is on you to investigate your invention and frame your patent so that it falls within the confines of the law but you must do this at the very outset of the process. If you cannot enforce the patent due to any of the above reasons, then it will not be worth the paper it’s written on. Is it worth the risk?