If you have a good idea you're supposed to patent it, right? Well, that depends.
A patent is a certification giving exclusive right to a product, process, or idea to its inventor. A patent may only be issued by a government office and it grants you the right to try prevent others from commercially making, using, selling, importing, or distributing your invention without permission.
So let's say that you've invent an item that the patent office thinks meets its criteria for a technical patent: Your item is unique, not obvious, and useful. You pay your fees (currently just around $1,000) and your attorney (estimate around $10,000) and go on your merry way.
You create your product and find a way to get it into the hands of consumers.
Before you know it, there is a competing product on the market and is most likely being distributed by the very manufacturer who is creating yours. So how will your patent protect you? It probably won't.
A patent will not stop someone from making the same product as you; it only serves as your proof that you had the idea first. In order to make the manufacturer stop creating and distributing the product, you'll have to take them to court and have a judge order them to quit production.
The average costs of patent litigation in the seven-figures range, and that's just the cost of going to court! It doesn't include what you'd be ordered to pay as the losing party. You have to wonder if it's ever worth it to have the patent at all.
Nick Drombosky, developer of Fiks:Reflective safety technology doesn't think it adds value to his product. "We don't hold a patent to our technology. It's too expensive to try and stop someone, so why bother?" In fact, Fiks is in the process of a lawsuit right now with someone claiming to have held the idea first. Despite a years-long history of inventing, producing, and distributing his product, Nick has to go to court to defend it. With a patent, he would still have to go to court, though he would have the luxury of a piece of paper to back him and his lawyers up on their defense.
Indeed, if you're working with new technologies on a molecular level, like creating medications or a new paint product you could find some use for a patent. However, most entrepreneurs aren't up late at night working on a new antacid.
So what is a small business to do? A start up can outshine competitors by offering stellar costumer service, meaningful social engagement, rapid innovation, and a better product experience overall. Don't let a patent be your sole business strategy.