Most products will go through a standard product life cycle of introduction, growth, maturity and decline. Take for example, car entertainment systems. My first car had a state of the art, push button radio. Then it was a radio with a tape cassette player. Next a CD player, and now a DAB radio with an MP3 port.
This usually takes place over several years, but for some this happens over a much shorter time period.
Every decade will see its fair share of fads but even though they may only be around for months rather than years, do not rule out the intellectual property surrounding them. Let’s look back at a couple that you may remember.
How about a t-shirt that changes colour when it gets hot. Early 90s for this one - the Hypercolor t-shirt. Stand in the sun, you’re pink…go inside, you’re purple. US patent for thermochromic dyeing method and cellulose product dyed thereby, has this technology covered.
No room for a real pet, then how about an electronic substitute. Tamagotchi®, the handheld virtual pet, has sold well over 70 million since Bandai put it on the market in 1996. The "pet" has to be looked after by clicking buttons at regular intervals or it will begin to suffer. With several patents covering the technology, it certainly kept many children occupied.
Widen the reach
IP can protect even the weirdest of inventions and it can last for a long time. Providing you pay the annual renewal fees, a patent can be in force for up to twenty years. But it is worth considering how long the product will be popular as licensing the invention can broaden the reach of IP into different markets. It can increase market penetration and share the costs and risks.
The IPO has a database of patents that are endorsed ‘licence of right’. This means that the patent holder has agreed to license their patent to anyone who asks. You can search the database for patents endorsed licence of right to use the technology for your innovation or business.
If you have a patent, you can ask the IPO to endorse your patent with a licence of right in the register of patents. This means that you must grant a licence to anyone who wants one.
The main advantages of having your patent endorsed with a licence of right are that it lets other people know you are happy to license your IP and annual renewal fees are half the usual cost.
If you think your invention might only be around for a limited time, then look at the licensing opportunities.