Embracing the Future: A Perspective on Patents
The perennial concern for parents of teenagers resonates deeply: “It’s 10 o’clock Saturday night, do you know what your teenager is doing?” This question triggers parental anxiety, stemming from their own experiences as adolescents (hard to believe, but true!).
Similarly, an analogous question can be posed about patents. “It’s been years since your patent issued, do you know what it is doing?”
Navigating Patent Realities
Patent attorneys field this query with varied responses, ranging from proactive inquiries about product checks, interest letters, and objections to the bleak outlook: patents seemingly losing significance in the eyes of PTAB, Supreme Court, and CAFC. Some even express relief at nearing retirement—a disheartening sentiment indeed.
For C-level executives steering companies invested in patent protection, such feedback provides scant direction for charting the way forward. These leaders engage in dialogues among themselves and their MBA peers, grappling with uncertainty about the value of Intellectual Property (IP) amidst business objectives, contemplating the fitting metrics, costs, and ROI for global IP.
A Fresh Perspective
Let’s shift perspectives and proffer a different response. Firstly, marvel at what the patent system fosters. Peruse the initial 50 pages of recent PTO Official Gazettes; witness the astonishing developments issued week by week. The innovation and breadth showcased therein unveil the future and its proprietors. Everything relied upon today—from phones and cars to pharmaceuticals—was envisioned and safeguarded a decade ago by individuals immersed in the inventive process. This revelation becomes apparent when observed from a slight distance.
Seeding Alternative Futures
Moreover, these patents birth alternative possibilities. Countless tales exist of companies exploring divergent paths inspired by others’ patents, leading to new innovations and patents of their own. This cycle propels creativity further. Protected innovations set the stage for evolution. Unbeknownst to creators of one variation, they catalyze the emergence of more possibilities. The market eventually decides the superior path.
Looking Beyond the Present
Who concerns themselves with this? Certainly not the C-suite individuals fixated on product checks and revenue from licensing. They acknowledge patent specialists’ fervor for such minutiae since law school, but what they see now is the current impact on the income statement due to IP spending. They’re attuned to the prevailing discourse on “junk patents” and Supreme Court cases. Their focus lies in the “present”—stemming from IP laid a decade ago, clearly reflected in ROI metrics and short-term gains.
ROI of Not Embracing Change
However, what’s the ROI of eschewing innovation and neglecting IP protection? It’s forfeiting a stake in whatever unfolds beyond the “now.” If being part of the future matters, innovate, safeguard, and own it when it arrives. Failure to innovate and protect innovation now amounts to exclusion from what lies ahead. If you prefer not to participate, communicate this to stakeholders so they can align with your vision or divest.
In contrast, to be part of tomorrow, innovate, protect, and anticipate. Engage in shaping what’s to come. Don’t just safeguard the winner—secure comprehensively. As an active participant in molding the future, plan, and foresee. For those abstaining, the future, distinct from the “present,” might as well not exist. Remember the Walkman? Likely not in use today; adapt or risk becoming an artifact.