On patents as a business tool

After doing some early research into patents, I concluded that:
  • they’d cost me $10k or so per patent
  • this would be a huge amount of time and effort for me
  • it would take at least a couple of years for the patents to be granted
  • I wouldn’t have the money to enforce them
  • small companies would probably ignore them anyway
So I was confident in asserting that patents were a waste of time (for my needs).
In the 6 months since, a few things have conspired to change my mind:
  • we’re close to raising investment, and investors care about patents because they provide evidence of value
  • likewise, they make you more acquirable
  • I’ve started to realize that patents’ primary value is as a deterrent against large companies who might otherwise lumber into competition
It’s this final point – that patents provide a watered-down ‘mutually assured destruction’ kind of deterrent against incumbents and larger companies that seems most important now. If you can protect yourself with patents, you make it much more likely that larger companies will partner with, license from or acquire you, rather than compete with you.
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