Sunday, March 4, 2007

Patents - some general information and a portal

I do not practice patent law. Patent law requires an engineering degree before getting admitted to the patent bar. When patent issues arise, I associate with a local attorney who is admitted to the patent bar.

You need to be an engineer to understand the thing or process being patented - to make sure that it is a new, original idea rather than a retread of someone else's work. Essentially that is what makes a patent - an original idea that is expressed in a thing or a process. If it is just an idea or an old device or process in new clothes, it is not a patent.

Patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets all come under the heading of intellectual property. They also make lots of money and mean lots of money to those who own this intellectual property.

Patents expire quicker than copyrights. Some may know of Lilly's fights to protect its patents against generic drug makers. Drug makers provide a good example of patents - generic drug companies snapping at the heels of the original developers, waiting for the day that the patent expires so that they can make low cost substitutes while the original developers search for a replacement product to replace the profits to be lost to the generic makers. Computer software developers provide another example of a patent's importance.

Small businesses should not shy away from developing and protecting its intellectual property. Get legal counsel and work a strategy of developing and protecting your property. From small things can come bigger companies. Take a look at the history of Microsoft and how it developed its intellectual property (and fights very hard to protect its patents and trademarks).

I have learned of a patents portal at Those of you interested in the subject should take a look at the site but I will warn you that it is geared towards lawyers.