The internet has made the world ‘transparent’. This is one reason why reverse engineering is becoming a piece of cake.
Copycats have the time of their life nowadays, copying products, services and business models. What went wrong in recent history and how do we deal with patent and brand protection in a world that is changing ever faster?
Inventing the patent
Some form of patent rights was already recognized in ancient Greece, although it was not until 1450 that the first statutory patent system, ‘The Venetian Patent Statute’, would be presented. It was a decree by which technical devices had to be submitted to the Republic in order to obtain legal protection against potential infringers.
Patents were protected for ten years. Later on, the Renaissance patent system evolved into the English Patent system that recognized ‘intellectual property in order to stimulate invention’. This modern patent system was fundamental for the Industrial Revolution (1760 to 1840) and the current patent system.
The patent bubble
The original idea of a patent system was to stimulate innovation and protect intellectual property (IP) – a wise starting point. In the meantime, patent protection has sometimes inhibited innovation. Since almost every imaginable invention is registered by way of a patent, new inventions do violate previously registered patents quite easily.
The consequence is that in order to commercialize an invention, one has to pay IP rights to dozens of other patent owners. High tech companies like Apple and Samsung do pay each other a few dollars for every smartphone they sell to cover the violated patents. This leads to unnecessarily expensive products for consumers and is therefore undesirable. This patent bubble will be dealt with in the coming years.
Besides the unintentional violation of patents, there is another issue: there are people and companies that register a patent and simply wait until someone else violates their patent.
Once a company is making some serious money, the ‘Patent Troll’ goes to court to claim its IP rights under the patent. To minimize patent trolling, Europe has devised a ‘loser-pays-all costs regime’. This seems to work when compared to the United States, where each party is responsible for paying its own legal costs. Another measure is the limitation on patents concerning software, fruits, vegetables and living material (like genetically modified pets).
How do you protect your intellectual property form such copycats? Invest in defensive patent protection: perform thorough patent research and do not forget to register patents on those parts of an invention that may not seem particularly relevant. It can be of great help when defending your IP by way of your other patents.
Brand protection can best be done by model registration. Request an extensive range of domain names, as well. Be aware that each domain name is backed by a trade name at the Chamber of Commerce. For new product names: choose a new, non-existing word or combine two existing words.
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