Does Your Startup Need a Patent? Maybe Not So Much.

With all of the talk in the news recently about the increasing hostile patent wars between tech companies (see the ongoing Apple v. Motorola saga that was thrown out of court in a big way today), it would seem natural that startups would be getting in on that trend early to protect their ideas.  However, an interesting report that came out this week seems to indicate that that is not necessarily the case.

"Despite the overall decline in application activity, those companies that have chosen to pursue patents have done so more aggressively than ever. This is indicative of the increasing dichotomy in the marketplace, in which some thought leaders are actively speaking out against certain types of patents while patent portfolios are being bought and sold for lucrative amounts."

That sounds right to me.  Many of my startup clients will about the feasibility of obtaining a patent early on.  There is a common perception that they need to formally protect their idea to maintain a competitive advantage.  That still may be true in some industries (see, e.g., biotech and semiconductors), but for many entrepreneurs starting companies in the ecommerce and web space, the time and expense of obtaining and protecting a patent is just not worth it.