by Dr Tim Fray
So you have finally got your new product to the week before the “Big Launch”. It’s taken you five years from your original eureka moment. It’s cost you an arm and leg, and taken many hours of toil for no return. In fact you have lived and breathed it for the past five years. Someone you met at a networking meeting mentions in parting to remember to do something called a Freedom to Operate (FTO) Search before launching.
In blind panic you rush home, go to Google and look for patents belonging to other people covering your new product. You find a whole load of confusing information but amongst the haystack of information is a needle of intellectual property in the form of a granted patent in the country where you want to launch. It completely covers your new product and scuppers all hope of your launch. It’s back to the drawing board for you.
Your colleague of course, who is developing a different product, didn’t catch the parting comments at the networking meeting. They launched the following week to much pomp, but the week after were sent a worrying letter from a patent attorney claiming that they have infringed a patent and need to stop what they are doing ASAP. It’s back to the drawing board for them also.
In fact both have lost out significantly, and whilst I would rather be the former, there are ways to prevent losing out altogether.
In any research and development there are stages or milestones set to measure progress. At each milestone the product takes on a specific form or is developed into a specific concept. At each of these stages, to the best of your ability, a FTO search should be conducted. This will tell you if your concept or product is already protected by a granted patent, therefore leaving you open to attack by the patent owner. The FTO searches are carried out at multiple times throughout the development process to avoid the nasty shocks at the end and the wasted expenditure of development. Any will full infringement can lead to higher damages in any court case. Any patents found along the way will help to direct the development of your product into a truly unique and innovative area thereby giving you a greater eventual foothold in the market place. This foothold may be accompanied by a patent application in order to pursue protection of that market share.
Is your company developing new products? Contact us on 01522 801111 to make sure your product launch does not become a train wreck.