The coronavirus pandemic has thrust nearly all businesses into a state of unprecedented uncertainty and turmoil. This is requiring many businesses to prioritize expenses more strictly, and this will extend to spending on intellectual property filing and maintenance.
I started my law firm shortly before the financial crisis of 2008, so I am familiar with the management of intellectual property during times of relative austerity.
Here are a few thoughts for managing your intellectual property portfolio through the uncertain times ahead:
1. Consider Provisional Patent Applications for your new inventions.
A provisional application is a less expensive and faster way to get an invention patent pending for 1 year. A provisional patent application is less expensive because the strict technical requirements are relaxed. Provisional patent applications are very common for independent inventors and start-ups due to the much lower upfront costs. Established businesses are often advised to skip the provisional process to keep the total cost down and to get the patent issued earlier. However, in a tight time, a provisional application is much better than filing no patent application at all, which will allow your invention to enter the public domain.
2. Don’t let your IP Lapse.
While you might have to forgo IP filings for a time, maintaining intellectual property relevant to your business should be a top priority. This includes trademark renewals and patent maintenance fees. The costs are usually nominal and well worth the investment.
3. Send Cease-And-Desist Letters to Infringers Even if You Can’t afford IP litigation right now.
You can sometimes lose intellectual property rights or at least weaken your intellectual property position by failing to adequately police your rights. This is especially relevant with trademark law wherein an infringer can use the unreasonable delay in enforcement as a defense to infringement.
4. Consider Smaller Law Firms and Independent Attorneys.
Many larger businesses prefer to stick with “name-brand” national and regional law firms for their intellectual property and other legal needs. These firms do usually provide quality representation. However, there are smaller firms and independent attorneys out there with at least as much expertise. These smaller firms often charge substantially lower fees largely because they don’t need to support the overhead of a big law firm.