Patent filing for startups is a critical consideration in protecting innovation. Additionally, patent filing costs is an important factor you are filing patents (Read this to know why you should file patents).
In this article, let’s look at how you can optimise patent costs as a startup or as a startup founder.
Below is a quick snapshot of different ways that you can use to your advantage while filing patent applications.
Let’s look at the details:
1. Provisional patent application filing –
A provisional patent application is essentially a basic version of a full-fledged non-provisional patent application with the intent to claim a priority date as early as possible. The provisional patent application is significantly more affordable compared to a non-provisional patent application (complete specification), which needs to have an extremely well defined structure, professionally-written description and specifically, claims in the patent application. A provisional patent application needs nothing of that sort to enable inventors to claim early priority.
Having said that, if you have the time and resources, feel free to create as much structured and well-written specification that you want to. However, it’s not mandatory when filing the provisional application. You can just file the provisional patent application with running text that clearly describes your invention and all the relevant details on which you seek early priority. This helps you get an early priority date at a low cost.
To get an expansive coverage at the early priority date, you should disclose as many features/details as possible at the time of filing the provisional patent application. You may later keep refining the invention or adding improvements in the succeeding 1 year which is the time limit to file the non-provisional patent application.
In a fast-paced startup environment, a lot changes in terms of business need and its solutions in 1 year. The low cost of a provisional patent filing gives you this flexibility where you can still incorporate all developments and improvements into the non-provisional patent filing under the same patent application. Compare this to a scenario where you had not file the provisional patent application but directly in a non-provisional patent application. Any developments post the non-provisional filing would then need to be incorporated in a separate patent application with an equivalent cost as your non-provisional patent application (remember we discussed provisional filing is cheaper!).
2. Global patent filing costs:
A great aspect about the global patent system is that there are multiple international patent conventions and treaties that allow you to claim priority from an earlier filed parent application in another member country. For example, if you have filed your patent application in India first and you are later filing the application in the United States, the United States Patents and Trademarks Office (USPTO) recognises your priority claim from an Indian patent application since both countries are members of the Paris convention.
As a start up, you can file in those countries first where you have a business need and which are also cheaper to file, while still maintaining your priority claim across these countries. For example, India is one of the most cost effective countries to seek patent protection compared to the US and European countries. If you are an Indian startup or at least operating in India, it makes sense to first file in India (you get a patent protection with relatively low funds) and keep filing in other countries later considering your resources and business needs down the lane, while still keeping your priority claim.
3. Entity status:
Several countries encourage small entities and individual inventors to file patents for relatively lower costs than larger entities. For instance, the patent filing fee for individual inventors and small entities in India is approximately just 20% of the filing fee for a large entity. If you are a startup, you can make use of this incentive to create a patent portfolio for your business in the early years of incorporation. Alternately, you may file the patents in your name as a natural person to reap the benefits of low patent filing costs.
4. Business-centric patents:
While filing patents, you should ensure that they capture your core business model. If you are filing patents just for the numbers without aligning them closely to your core business, it may cause a huge financial drain in future and may not add great value. As a startup, this should be avoided. Instead, you need to first define a patent strategy. Take stock of how much annual funds you can set aside for patent filing and maintenance over at least the next 3-5 years and accordingly, create a patent portfolio.
Every patent in your patent portfolio should capture the essence of your product or service and the claims should be drafted accordingly. Instead of just increasing number of patents, the factor that is most important is whether the claims of your patent capture the essential details of your idea (technical solution) and are broad enough to detect patent infringement by third-party products.
5. Patentability assessment:
This is one of the most underestimated pre-filing activities for a patent. It’s tempting to believe that your idea is unique without doing a prior art search. A prior art search before patent filing lets you discover prior art specific to your idea from the millions of patent publications and published non-patentable literature. It is better to discover potential prior art before incurring patent filing and patent prosecution costs than to spend thousands of dollars only to find out later that your idea is not unique in view of another patent discovered during examination of patent application.
You can always do a prior art search yourself but if you are serious about pursuing your patent, try to seek professional help in patentability assessment. Patentability assessment enables you to take a more informed decision on how to shape up your patent application to avoid overlaps with prior art to get a patent grant.
Now that you know how to best optimise your startup’s patent filing, use these points together to get the most value from patent filing costs.
Hope you liked reading the above article. Please drop a comment if you have queries or thoughts.