An Idea Worth Protecting

BRIGHT IDEAS ARE NOT ALWAYS easy to develop, which is why each year the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Washington, D.C., receives more than 375,000 applications to protect new ideas for products, processes, designs and logos. The office issues tens of thousands of patents for an array of industries. Waste companies are specifically credited with innovations to better load, handle and recycle waste. As a result, many waste firms have been at either end of patent infringement litigation.

Filing for patents or other forms of intellectual property protection, including trademarks and copyrights, is a proactive step to protect an idea or invention under the law. For many individuals and companies, patents can be valuable in providing a competitive advantage. Businesses collect an estimated $150 billion globally in annual royalties and licensing agreements resulting from intellectual property. Because of this value, activities to protect patent use, including patent infringement litigation, are increasing.

However, having a patent does not necessarily ensure that it will be enforced. Once a patent is received, the patent holder, either an individual or corporation, must monitor and penalize illegal use of its product. Although the government provides the right to protect a patent in court, it does not enforce the patent for the patent holder.

If there is a patent violation, a few initial steps can protect innovations before litigation becomes necessary. For example, an attorney can send a letter detailing the patent violation, asking the company or individual to discontinue a patented product or technique. Often, a business might not be aware of another's property rights.

It also is possible that a company or individual will want to produce the product or information enough to pay for the right through proper licensing. With a licensing agreement, a company or individual that uses a patent does so under specific conditions and pays royalties for the right to use the patent.

Another patent protection is specialized intellectual property insurance, which includes:

  • Patent Infringement Liability Insurance: a form of professional liability insurance for businesses accused of infringing a patent holder's rights. Typically, this insurance policy provides coverage for defense and indemnity, and can include profits and royalties that must be turned over to the patent holder.

  • Patent Enforcement Litigation Insurance: This offers the policyholder protection against infringement by another person and covers the legal defense costs of enforcing a patent.

Like many forms of insurance, intellectual property insurance is a tool to protect ideas and manage the potential risk that someone will infringe on your idea. Intellectual property insurance also may help to satisfy the requirements or concerns of lenders in various types of patent-backed financing.