The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's recent report on international protection confirmed on several levels that smart intellectual property strategies can help unlock global opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses. But according to IP Watchdog founder Gene Quinn, many smaller firms still view the patent system from the outside looking in.
Citing extensive economic research, USPTO officials noted that SMBs are a primary driver of job growth, contributing an average of 3 million new jobs to the domestic labor market each year. To keep this momentum going, however, intellectual property protections must be in place to guard the sanctity of licensing, franchising and exporting agreements that help smaller firms enter foreign marketplaces and expand their businesses.
The process of filing a comprehensive patent application can be prohibitively expensive in the United States, and can be still worse in foreign territories that do not have similar programs to incubate and actively encourage small business innovation. There is also no such thing as a truly international patent, according to Quinn, meaning that an invention will have to apply for separate IP protection in each country it is sold.
For SMBs just beginning the path toward savvy patent management, Quinn insisted that IP protection from the USPTO should still be the first step. Even if it becomes too expensive to file applications in foreign markets where one's goods will be distributed, the original patent will ensure potentially infringing goods cannot be imported to the United States.