A patent firm advises and assists companies in managing and enforcing patents. Patent attorneys will prepare and file patent applications on behalf of a client, ensure that patents are being maintained, and litigate on behalf of the client if a patent is being infringed. A patent firm will also manage a company's patent portfolio by licensing patents to other parties.
Many companies own numerous patents related to their business. These can include patents for machinery, business processes, designs, or other inventions. Ensuring that these inventions are not used by competitors is crucial.
Patents are issued by a government for a new invention, and they allow the patent holder the exclusive right to manufacture and distribute this invention. A company generally files for a new patent each time an invention is updated or altered, and for very large corporations, this can mean filing for thousands of new patents every year.
A patent firm will assist a company in filing new patents. Applying for patents can be a complicated process, taking months or even years. A patent firm will also advise a company on applying for patents around the world, where patent requirements may be different.
Maintaining patents is another important element of patent management. Most patents are issued for a limited amount of time. If a patent is allowed to expire, the patented invention can be used by anyone for free. Fees must be paid to the appropriate patent office in order to maintain a patent.
Patent infringement occurs when a party other than a patent holder makes or sells the patented invention, and a patent firm will pursue litigation on behalf of a client to stop a patent from being infringed. The litigation will also seek damages related to the infringement of the patent.
Management of many patents also allows a company to license patents to other parties. A patent firm will advise a client on the most profitable ways to license patents while ensuring that the company remains competitive. A company may also decide to sell a patent that it no longer desires to keep in its portfolio.
In some cases, a party or company may own patents which they do not themselves use or manufacture. These parties may own patents solely to license them and collect licensing fees or to collect damages from patent infringers. A patent firm may assist in the organization of patents in these situations.