In 2006, Research in Motion, the maker of the once-ubiquitous BlackBerry device, had to pay $612.5 million to a patent holding company, NTP. Also known as “patent trolls,” these are people or companies that register patents with the sole purpose of being the patent holder, even though they do not plan on manufacturing any product or delivering any service that involves the technology patented. Their modus operandi revolves around filing for patents so they can enforce patent rights and obtain some kind of compensation, and this generates expenses for companies upwards of $29 billion in direct costs.
This is only one of the potential problems that you are likely to encounter if you’ve invented something in a field as innovative and convoluted as AI, in which technology patents are notoriously challenging to obtain. It is a process that I’ve navigated, and one that is riddled with challenges and uncertainties, particularly because code cannot be patented, and mathematical algorithms are not patentable in many jurisdictions.
What is possible is to patent general principles as well as the sequence of steps involved in the corresponding innovation.
In this regard, there are two possible risky scenarios:
- You end up with a vague patent that does not provide complete protection. This leaves you in a vulnerable position.
- Inevitably, you will run across several other patents that have similarities to yours, even if you genuinely have made a unique discovery. This can lead to your patent being rejected.
To maximize your chances of getting this grueling process right, here are four tips that will help protect your work so you can capitalize on it.
Engaging in a conversation with a patent examiner is much like appearing before a judge in a court of law: Honesty is the only policy.
Double down on due diligence at every step
Before you file a provisional patent, do meticulous research to see if there are any similar ones already registered. Then repeat the process before submitting your main patent application.
As tedious as this sounds, it is important that you do it. New, similar patents will likely appear during that gap year between your provisional patent and your main patent, especially in AI, which is a sector that many entrepreneurs are trying to get into and monetize. Remember that once you have filed your main patent, the text is set in stone — you cannot change it.
Also, if your patent gets rejected and you get the chance to connect with the relevant examiner and incorporate their suggestions, you will need to conduct another patent search. Even if you already did this countless times before filing, doing this research can make the difference between having to repeat this process again and being given the green light.