OK, it’s a strange analogy, but hear me out…
I was recently speaking with a potential client that was approached with a licensing offer for a portfolio of patents. He came to me with some good thoughts on why his company didn’t need a license. In his layman’s view, there were things in the claims that his company didn’t do. And, maybe, just maybe, he is right. Based on this, his approach was to simply ignore the party making the offer and hope they go away. Not surprisingly, we recommended a more proactive approach starting with a detailed non-infringement analysis and then, based on those results, developing a strategy to respond to the unsolicited offer. Of course, there is some hesitation from the client, since he already believes that there isn’t a problem. But, he doesn’t actually KNOW there isn’t a problem.
So, how is a patent clearance analysis like a colonoscopy, you might ask?
Well, both are procedures that no one wants. Both involve some discomfort, both involve some cost, and, best case, both confirm your deep-felt hope that nothing is wrong. Another important similarity: if it turns out something is not 100% right, both offer early detection of a potential problem and provide critical information needed to make a plan towards a clean bill of health in the future. Finally, in both cases, choosing to ignore the situation and not go through the process can let an undetected problem fester into something that becomes malignant.
At the end of the day, in both cases, you either get peace of mind or at the very least you get critical information needed to move forward intelligently. If you think you may be at risk, it’s certainly worth the investment to be proactive with a right-to-use analysis performed by competent patent counsel. Once patent litigation starts, it can get expensive very quickly, even if you prevail.
What you don’t know can hurt your business. If you have reason to believe there may be an issue of patent infringement, an ounce of prevention (or at least early detection) may be worth a pound of cure.