Patent war has become nasty nowadays. Even when it comes to your original work, you still might have a chance to infringe other people’s rights. The absurdity of the fact could be explained in this following scenario: Your product was launched for quite sometime but you didn’t file for patent application while the other company (that made the same product as you) had filed and granted the patent though the product is still under incubation. They could sue you for violating his patent, you could lose the case and compensate their losses, although technically, you’re not stealing anything from them. And, there is a possibility that they copied your idea in the first place.
Most technology startups, especially those from developing countries, have high chances of losing when engaged in intellectual property war game. Most of them are even unaware of the magnitude of the IP right, or in the state of penny-pinching, any budget allocation for patent expenditure seems unrealistic, and would instantly be considered excessive in their plan; to be dropped without much hesitation.
But when we look at startups in the Silicon Valley, whom are showered with all kinds of funds from angel investors and venture capitalists, and whom have enough exposure and guidance to survive and prosper in the modern warfare, who knows how to play lawyer first, inventor later. According to Bloomberg Businessweek (August 13 – 26, 2012 issue), in an article, Hiring a Mercenary for The New Patent War, a new startup, Tactus Technology, filed 20 applications before even beginning to bring their inventions to life.
How much do you have to spend to start a patent application? Schox Patent Group responded to Businessweek interview by saying that they charge a flat rate of US$15,000 per patent. For big corporations, this sum is peanuts, but a big sum to smaller companies.
“Decades ago a machine might have five or ten patents,” says Schox. “But today, the phone in your pocket has about 5,000.” It seems that the patent filing is a lucrative business, but the huge incentive lies on the patent litigation war.
On 24th August 2012, Apple won its patent lawsuit against Samsung on the infringement of its multiple patents in the US, including scrolling, zooming, navigation features, as well as icon design and appearance, which awarded the company a US$1.05 billion in settlements. The patent war ignited by Apple is also a strategy aimed at Google to suppress the advancement of its Android powered smart phones and tablets.
The impact? The initial objective of patent rights was to protect the novelty of an invention; now it has become a double-edged sword to subdue competition and innovation to some extent.
We are a technology company, no matter how I loath the twisted development of patent application; it is still one of the indicators to measure the technology strength of a company or a nation. As a technology company, we have to file more patent applications to protect our intellectual property. This month, we filed in a patent application for “A Time Attendance tracking method and system” for TimeTec Mobile App, and another patent on one-touch technology is to be filed next month. Here is our part done in the patenting world.
by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ