Most small to medium-sized enterprises don’t patent an invention unless it is believed that the invention or process is truly valuable and worth protecting. This means that before initiating the patent process, entrepreneurs should ensure the invention is worth more than the cost to patent it.
Although a successful patent application will grant the registrant some very strong intellectual property rights, it’s important to consider whether a patent application is justified. The following are some relevant considerations:
Cost: Patent applications are very costly. For example, in Canada, a patent application generally costs at least C$25,000 from start to finish. However, since patents often involve complex technical issues, the cost could increase greatly depending on the subject of the invention or process.
Time: The patent application process is long and it involves detailed examination and re-examination of the invention and process involved, in addition to comparison to all known patents, inventions and processes in the public domain. Accordingly, a patent application ranges from two to five years.
Fast pace of technology: By the time the patent is granted, the invention or process might be outdated (especially in computer or high-tech industries).
Public disclosure: For a patented invention or process, the plans and key information will be on public record. This information could potentially be used by anyone to copy a design and infringe on a patent or to develop slightly modified designs that accomplish a similar result but legally circumvent that which has been patented.
Clearly, the prospective patent applicant has to carefully weigh the above considerations against the benefits that a patent offers. Therefore, some businesses choose not to obtain a patent in order to keep their key information and plans a trade secret.