The question of how to stand out amongst competitors in a competitive market is the foremost question all entrepreneurs face. While many resort to building sticky brands and investing in clever advertising spend, there is one option that flies under the radar that can define a company at the forefront of their industry. This one consideration is patents. Having a patent on a groundbreaking technology is a surefire way for a company to dominate an industry, and do it quickly. The nature of a patent is in its exclusive use, which can make for what is called a ‘legal monopoly.’
Contrast this business model with the companies that are always sizing up against their competitors: there’s nothing tangible that can truly separate their core offerings. Any seven-figure marketing agencies can offer the exact same services without any legal repercussions. On the other hand, having a patent provides a reliable ‘barrier to entry’ against other competitors, meaning they’re not as easily able to compete in the exact market. Of course, you have to actually have a patent-worthy idea or technology to apply for a patent. These benefits will get you thinking.
Patents Ensure 20 Years Of Exclusive Rights
American Law states that exclusive patent rights last for twenty years, and this is defined as the exclusive legal right to make, use, or sell the invention for a limited time,” according to BC Campus. “The idea is to provide limited monopoly power so that innovative firms can recoup their investment in R&D, but then to allow other firms to produce the product more cheaply once the patent expires,” the textbook explains.
A note here: just because you would now have 20 years of exclusive use doesn’t necessarily mean much. The ‘unicorn’ potential within a patent is in the ability to disrupt the industry, which means it changes the behavior and needs of the consumers. “Think of how the iPhone disrupted the flip phone,” noted Dr. Hamid Abbasi. “They made something that was cheaper and easier to use.”
Dr. Abbasi’s firm has a patent of their own for a technology called OLLIF, which cuts down orthopedic surgery time tremendously – from about seven hours to one. “We’re disrupting the industry because of the incredible benefit this offers, especially during COVID-19,” he explained. “This new type of surgery is considerably less invasive and safer due to lower risks of complications, and therefore, patients don’t require so much hospital time whilst improving the efficiency of care delivery. But, we also know that the technology is nothing without the right process,” he explained.
Patents Attract New Customer Bases
There’s an element of patented technology or ideas that feel ‘safer’ or more credible to consumers, too. The effort and cost required to file a patent means substantial research and development needed to be done beforehand, and this element should be flaunted in marketing efforts. Tell consumers why they should care about your patented technology, and about the years of hard work and effort that went into it. And, consider that while not every company has a patented technology, patents are not new. The total number of patents filed exceed 10 million in June 2018. It’s what you do with the information surrounding the patent and how you market the technology that matters.
For example, Amol Soin is the founder of Soin Neuroscience, and they have a patent on a neurostimulator that can block pain using electrical signals to interface with a nerve. With a technology this groundbreaking, a patent is necessary, especially as they have been doing human trials (with incredible results). They’re still in the final stages of testing and the FDA approval process, but they’re already basing their marketing in cross-comparisons to potential competitors.
“We have created videos where we compare our device to the others, and within them, our neurostimulator did a lot better: bringing pain scores down to 0 or 1 consistently, whereas competitors only got 50%,” Soin shared. “Showing consumers what the key differences are is how you prove that your patent has significant potential amongst the competitive market.”
Why (And Why Not) To Consider A Patent
For all of the reasons that a patent can be helpful, it’s worth knowing that only 2-3% of patents actually make it to the market. Much of this is accounted for by brand new startups that want to seal the intellectual property on their novel ideas, then never actually follow through. And, filing a patent is expensive – it’s estimated that 97% of those who file patents never recoup the total costs. These aren’t statistics that should scare you necessarily. Just make sure to know what you’re getting yourself into and to have a plan in place.
So, the consideration about whether or not to proceed with a patent comes down to three key questions.
- Do you have a technology that can be patented?
- Are you willing to invest in the necessary R&D, or have you already?
- Are you prepared to strategize a marketing plan that will center around your competitive advantage?
While patents appear to be a surefire route to monopolization and business success, they’re only truly worth it if you can honestly answer ‘yes’ to all three of the above questions. If not yet, back to the drawing board. And if your answer to all three questions is yes, the only question remaining is: what are you waiting for?