The varied multiple functions of patents

This paper details, through the use of recent examples, ten different ways businesses can benefit from patents other than by practising them. 


The varied multiple functions of patents

November 2015

It is often forgotten that a patent right forms part of a ‘social contract’ between society and inventors. Society recognises that invention and its public disclosure is socially beneficial and that protection should be granted to the owner of the invention, given that the knowledge is intangible and can, therefore, be copied once disclosed. Indeed, patents have a broad social welfare enhancing function, well beyond manufacturing. Consumers are the ultimate beneficiaries of inventions generated by new experimentation and ground-breaking innovation.

For centuries, the patent system has shown itself to be a sophisticated and flexible system, continuously evolving to meet new market challenges. However, while the process of invention is costly and risky, the process of applying and maintaining a patent in Europe, and further afield, also requires a non-trivial investment. Patent owners will, therefore, have a particular use of the patent in mind.

Practising the patented invention by manufacturing a technology product is by no means the only way in which patents are useful or valuable and patents can be put to many different and varied uses to promote investment in innovation and achieve return on investment. Below are ten common ways businesses can benefit from patents, other than by practising them, ranging from reputation to technology transfer and from access to capital to insolvency.

Ten ways businesses can benefit from patents other than by practising them
1. Reputation / credentials
A business may wish to use patents to advertise the innovative nature of its products to existing customers and potential customers, and/or to show that the products have original or exclusive features and are not the result of copying. This may add value in the eyes of the consumer regarding the unique nature of the product.

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