Once you have thought of this brilliant new idea, and are committed to developing it into a product, how do you stop someone else copying it, thus eroding your hard earned advantage? If it is easy to “hide” the invention in the product (maybe it is embedded in executable code in the controller), or is very hard to reverse engineer, or you can stay a step ahead of the competition then maybe you have the answer. However, those instances are rare, so the only real alternative is to play the patent game. And it is a game. A lot like Roulette: the house has the advantage but sometimes you win. The rules are something like:
The all -up cost? About $100k for a patent covering a few key countries. And that’s before any legal fees if you are challenged or need to sue. And keep in mind that a complex product may need many patents.
A key rule: If you think your patent attorney is not on the ball, he probably isn’t. Don’t be slow to shop around. There are lots of examples where the patent attorney snatches defeat from the jaws of victory with a drafting error that surfaces when you are slugging it out in court in a patent dispute.
And then there’s Registered Designs. If you invent a distinctive look, taste, smell or sound for your product, you can protect it by “registering” it. That’s why Pepsi can’t use a bottle that looks like a Coke bottle. And why Apple Macs can’t use the same sounds that Windows does. These don’t cost as much, but are more limited in their application.