Does Size Really Matter?

by: Natalie Giroux

What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog – Dwight D. Eisenhower

There is a common perception that a bigger patent portfolio is better than a smaller one. In fact, this is often not the case.

Many licensing battles start by comparing the height of the pile of patents (Microsoft and Alcatel have more than 5,000 and 6,000 issued patents respectively!). For smaller companies, this game will never be won simply because of the cost of developing and maintaining a large patent portfolio. However, smaller companies can succeed in defending their rights using a single very strong patent even against large multinationals (e.g. i4i vs. Microsoft).

What is key in the development of a patent portfolio is to cover what you don’t want your competition to do, and not necessarily to cover in detail how your product is implemented. In many cases using trade secrets is a much more efficient means to stand out from the competition. Regardless of the size of the portfolio, each patent needs to be written carefully and the claims have to be rock solid.

Inventors should be involved at all stages of prosecution to ensure that the required changes to the claims of the inventions do not detract from the initial intent. As the portfolio grows, it sometimes becomes difficult to maintain quality, so the company needs to rely on a good infrastructure to manage the process.

When it comes to patents, remember, what really matters is quality not quantity!

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