Alternatives to patents

There is one alternative to patenting an idea. Namely, to keep it secret.

That can be a good solution if you think your invention will be short-lived on the market. In that case, it can be worth investing straight away in production and marketing instead of in a patent. A toy is a good example of a product that can be popular for a short time. On the other hand, if you are dealing with a medicinal product, which can be profitable for a very long time, it is usually worth investing in a patent.

Keeping something secret can protect better than a patent in those cases where the invention is difficult to copy. The recipe for Coca-Cola is a closely-guarded company secret, so no one else can make exactly the same drink. But keeping something secret is, of course, more risky. Partly because someone could experiment their way forward to your product, and partly because it is so crucial that you can trust those you confide in about it.

If it would be difficult to prove that someone has plagiarized your product, there is probably no point in patenting it. For example, if you have invented a method for manufacturing spoons, it might not be possible to see from the spoon how it was produced. And you cannot sue all spoon manufacturers and accuse them of using your method.

You might also want to consider not applying for a patent if the scope of your protection would be so narrow that your competitors would easily get around it. Unfortunately that can be difficult to judge in advance.

Finally, if you are not interested in an exclusive right, but simply want to prevent others from getting a patent for your technical solution, you can destroy the patentability of the invention by publicly disclosing it in some way. Then your competitors have free access to your invention, but no one, not even yourself, can get the exclusive right to the idea.

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