Technology companies who lack strategic patents are at a serious disadvantage. Simply having patents is not enough. Patents are only valuable if they block critical paths that competitors will need to compete. It’s fairly easy to get a patent. It’s much more difficult to obtain a patent that blocks competitors.

When it comes to patent protection, the U.S. is the most critical stop for global companies. This is because the U.S. represents almost a quarter of the global market and has a very strong patent system that discourages infringement. The U.S. also has some of the most complex patent rules in the world. So, if a patent is properly designed to survive challenges in the U.S., it is likely to survive challenges in other countries as well. For this reason, global companies tend make the U.S. the centerpiece of their patent focus.

U.S.-based Finnegan, one of the largest IP firms in the world with 10 global offices, represents over 160 of Israel’s leading companies and hottest startups. Finnegan strategically develops patents for its Israeli clients, enforces those patents in court, and defends Israeli companies accused of infringement in the U.S.

Finnegan’s Israeli clients, like their successful counterparts around the world, understand that there are two secret ingredients in building strong patent portfolios. First, companies need to realize that patents are business tools that must be designed to achieve business goals. The patenting process should be driven from a business perspective, with support from the technical side. Too often, the technical side drives corporate patenting decisions, with insufficient or no business input. As a result, companies end up with a pile of technically nuanced patents that can be easily circumvented. Patents should block competitors from offering features that are critical to competition, not necessarily what engineers and scientists find interesting from their academic perspectives. So the first secret to building a powerful patent portfolio is to work with a patent strategist who designs patents from a business perspective to achieve business goals.

As a leader in the U.S. IP market for more than fifty years, and with a strategic patent planning group focused on business-driven patents, Finnegan strives to help its Israeli clients super-power their patent portfolios with IP assets that directly impact the bottom line.

The second secret to building powerful patents is that they must be carefully designed to withstand court challenges. Patents are vulnerable instruments. One wrong choice of words or failing to follow one subtle rule pronounced by a court, can mean the difference between a multimillion dollar patent and a patent worth nothing. When U.S. patents are developed by patent attorneys who never stepped foot in a U.S. courtroom and who therefore are not focused on the many ways patents are attacked in the U.S., the resulting patents tend to be highly vulnerable. For this reason, companies serious about patenting involve U.S. courtroom lawyers in the patenting process.

Recognizing that these critical skills were lacking in Israel, ten year ago, the University of Haifa Law School invited lawyers from Finnegan to teach a masters degree course on strategic patenting. To educate Israeli executives, the University of Haifa co-sponsored an annual lecture series on strategic patenting, taught by U.S. courtroom litigators from Finnegan. That lecture series alone reached nearly 4,000 Israeli executives over five years. Since that time, the Coller School of Business at Tel Aviv University added a patent strategy course to its MBA program, inviting Finnegan to teach that course as well. Now, as the result of years of education, many Israeli executives understand how important it is to not only adopt a business approach to patenting, but to ensure that U.S. courtroom litigators participate in the patenting process.

With sophisticated international investors regularly scouring Israel for companies having valuable, proprietary technology, and at a time when insufficiently protected innovations are quickly copied, Israeli companies cannot afford to have second-rate patent portfolios. Simply having patents is not enough. Patents must be designed to block competitors and withstand courtroom challenges. Otherwise, patents are virtually worthless.

Originally published by Haaretz Cyber Magazine.

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