If you regard your company as a technology oriented one, you need to consider applying for a patent.

In order to be applicable for a patent, your product needs to:

  • Be an industrially applicable invention
  • Be novel
  • Have included an “inventive step” in its creation.

Inventions relevant to software are also patentable if all of the above criteria are met.

I don’t intend to discuss the application process in detail here, but rather discuss aspects particular to ventures.

When writing about trademarks previously, I noted the importance of conducting a prior search. However, with respect to patents, ventures cannot usually afford to do a prior search for similar patents as the costs are often overwhelming. As such, I usually suggest that, in the case of patents, ventures leave the Japan Patent Office to examine the patentability of your proposed patent.

Why are patents good for ventures?

If you hold a patent, it can add a lot of value to your venture and become something to differentiate you from the many other ventures in Japan. Such added value may attract not only customers, but also venture capital. Therefore, if you find your work patentable, you might well consult with a specialist so that you may safely obtain a patent.

Although it is important to protect your patentable invention, it is often said that the primary purpose of the first application by ventures is to attract customers and venture capital, rather than exclude other competitors in your domain. If you try to obtain the broadest possible right for the patent in order to exclude competitors, it might become a very costly and time consuming affair. This may not be ideal in early stages of business, although it would of course be beneficial to obtain such a right in the long run. You also need to consider the costs of litigation in the case of seeking redress for infringement.

Please consult with your specialist advisor to holistically consider the best course of action for your business.

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