This week I read an article from Erik J. Heels, where he states that patents are not always worth a try for startups, mainly when it comes to software patents.
Well, it happens that I have being reading about this subject lately, and sometimes I do agree, sometimes I don't.
Although being expensive and time consuming, patents do give its owner a reasonable advantage over competitors avoiding them from stealing the idea. Ok, I agree that it doesn't always avoid that. Sometimes, enforcing a software patent isn't that easy, and if they steal your idea early, then they may gain a huge advantage over you before you even get you patent aproved.
It takes something between 5 to 6 years to get a software patent aproved. That's just about the life time of most technologies!
If your technology is good enough to strive through and live longer than that, you probably managed to gain the biggest piece in the market share. Then, would you really need a software patent to enforce competitors?
It happens that there is no easy answer to this. It is very hard to predict the future, and patents are assets. If you're more conservative, then patents will certainly bring you some peace of mind. If you're the type that doesn't fear competitors and trust in your bat, then patents may be a waste of time and money.
But never forget: patents are assets. Though you may never use it, whenever you need it you'll have it.
And no, I'm not going to start working as an IP lawyer or consultant, in case you're wondering I'm being biased. It simply happens that I have a special interest on this matter.
What do you think? Is it worth investing on patents, or is it better to use that money and time trying to overcome competition?