Douwe Osinga's Blog: The cost of patents

Wednesday, May 7, 2003

The cost of patents

A lot of people who think they have good ideas from time to time, decide that getting a patent costs too much money. From 10.000 USD who can call yourself a certified inventor. Of course this is rather more then I am willing to spend on a good idea I have in a pub. Are patents to expensive? How much should they cost?

It seems that patents are very expensive for a private Edison and rather cheap for the big companies. But if you think about it, is is not so unreasonable. Patents are there to protect inventors against copying and to allow them to create a viable business from there ideas. Patents should not protect guys in a pub with a weird idea that are never going to to anything else with it except for when a big company comes up with the same thing. That wouldn't make any sense macro-economically speaking. So if you have this great idea, it should only be protected when you also want to make an economic success out of the idea, ie build a company around it. In that case 10.000. is not so outrageous. If you're not going to invest 10K in your company, your not serious.

What about giving patents cheaper to private persons then to companies? Wouldn't that protect the little guy and extract some more from the big companies that can afford it? Actually no. Patents for private persons who do not have plans to build a company around the patent, don't deserve patent protection, so you might as well give patents only to companies. It would make more sense to create a special kind of company with a patent as asset. Founding such a company would be the same thing as applying for a patent. If granted, the inventor could then start selling shares in the idea, because the shares in the idea are the same as the shares in the company.