So, you think you’ve come up with an innovative piece of software that you know will be a game-changer. Great! But now the question is: to patent, or not to patent? When it comes to protecting your idea, there are several things to consider. First and foremost, tech—especially software—reinvents itself on a frequent basis, making today’s cutting-edge program tomorrow’s antique. Secondly, it depends on how much capital you have available. The patent filing process can be expensive, especially if you start dealing with international protection. Before you go down that road, you need to ask yourself, “Is this IP worth protecting, and if it is, can I afford to do it?”
As Klickly founder and CEO Cooper Harris explains, even a provisional “patent pending” stamp isn’t a trivial decision. Deciding whether to protect your idea is based on many, many factors. Yes, a patent can make your IP more attractive for potential acquisition from a larger company, but it might not be worth the cost for other reasons. You could take it upon yourself to file it personally in order to save some money, but generally speaking, would you trust yourself to do it right? There’s the option of hiring a patent attorney to do it for you, but even that route can get a little complicated, not to mention pricey and time consuming.
The issue of protecting your IP is an important—and potentially costly—decision many small business owners have to make, and the answer won’t be the same for every business. Protecting IP, especially tech patents, comes with its share of unique considerations. Should you go it alone, be prepared for application preparations, filing, examinations and issuing fees. If you hire an attorney, the process can cost upwards of tens of thousands of dollars and easily take three or four years to complete. To help you decide whether it’s right for you, ask yourself where you see your great idea going over that period of time, and whether its projected revenues are likely to justify the cost.