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Intellectual Property Protection

| On 09, Nov 2007

Praveen Gupta

In recent discussions about intellectual property it has been reiterated that only about 5% of patents are of any significant value, and the rate of success for R&D driven innovation is also about 4 – 5%. So, I am wondering if it is worth protecting every idea or innovation. I was once told by my attorney that it is easy to get a patent but much more difficult to defend the patent. The question is then what should we protect, what should we kept a secret, and what should just be left alone and rapidly commercialized?

In my earlier articles, I have identified four types of activity based innovations, namely fundamental, platform, derivative, and variation. Fundamental innovations are more pure scientific research, platform is system level innovation, and derivative is by-product of platform innovation, and variation is innovation in application and integration. Given that product life cycles are shrinking, rate of innovation is accelerating, one must seriously and critically review what to protect and what to regulate.

The variation type innovations are happening continually somewhere in the world, one must critically think about the need of protecting (or not protecting) such innovations. Unless variation type innovations that have a scope of becoming derivatives or platform innovations later, it may not be worth protecting. Platform and derivatives type innovations are worth protecting because they have the longer life, and more economic value. Since variation type innovations are much larger in numbers than the platform or derivative type innovations, leaving them unprotected will save a lot of money in filing patents and improve the credibility of the patenting system. The fundamental innovations are more scientific discoveries that are usually not patented as it has been said that basic science is for everyone. So the practical scope of patenting confines to platform and derivative innovations.

US Patents and Trademarks Office ( may look into classifying innovations or patents in such categories and establish due diligence guidelines accordingly. Thus the time to file patents for various types of innovations will vary based on their extent of innovation, and complexity of the patent application. Such an approach may also expedite most of the variation type innovations as they do not have long shelf life. In times when innovation is being accelerated everywhere, number of filings doubling more frequently, we must find a way to filter patent applications in various categories, and determine application fees proportionately. It will save application money to innovators, speed up the patent cycle time, and provide more time to innovators for generating higher economic value.

If you would like to share your views about the patent filing process in your country, you are invited here.