Patents are legal tools that provide an inventor the exclusive ownership of their product or process. Inventors looking to protect their intellectual property with a patent must prepare and apply for patent protections with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Once granted, the intellectual property is protected.
Although that basic outline is true, it is not the end of the story. Those who wish to truly protect their intellectual property must do more than just get a patent — they must act when a competitor infringes on their patent.
Three options when responding to patent infringement
There are a number of different reasonable responses to a violation, or infringement, of your patent protections. Three of the more common include:
- Ignore. The first is to ignore it and hope it goes away. This is generally not advisable.
- Cease and desist. The next is to send a cease-and-desist letter, a notification that the competitor is infringing and that the inventor will seek additional legal action if they do not stop.
- Litigation. The third is legal action, to sue the competitor. This can result in a court order requiring the competitor to stop the infringing action. It can also lead to a monetary award to make up for any lost revenue as a result of the infringing action.
It is important to note that these cases can take years to sort out. In a recent example, chipmaker Qualcomm Inc has accused tech mega giant Apple of patent infringement. The chipmaker claims the tech giant stole their chip technology. The tech giant counters by questioning the validity of the patent at issue. The case began when Apple challenged the patent in 2018 and continues to go back and forth in the courts and in front of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board.