How Should Companies Protect
Their Clean Energy IP?

IP News and Information

Patents can be a powerful resource for just about any company in almost any industry. Patents provide companies with defensive protection against competitors who might purposely or unknowingly infringe on their intellectual property rights. Patents can also be used as an offensive approach as IP owners can monetize their IP by licensing or selling patents to other entities. However, when it comes to patents, they are not built all the same. Some patents have great value, while many others might not have any real monetary value at all.

Every Industry Is Different

Likewise, every industry is different and patents cannot always be treated the same in one industry as they are in another. While patent monetization has long been used in some industries, it is a relatively new practice in other fields. “That means that the same protection and monetization strategies cannot by applied to every industry, but rather each industry has to look at how patent monetization works for its players,” says IPTrader president, Arlen L. Olsen. That includes the clean energy sector, where patent protection and monetization is not necessarily the same as it would be in other sectors, like the semiconductor industry. So what should clean energy companies do with their intellectual property?

Changing Patent Landscape

There have been several recent reports of patent litigation in the clean energy sector, which is no real surprise, given the fact that the commercial potential of clean energy has made great strides, as well as the fact that more and more patents have been applied for and granted in recent years. Litigation is a common form of patent monetization, but it is not always the best option, or even an option at all, for a lot of companies. That is due to a number of reasons, including because some technologies might not lend themselves to multiple patent filings or because the costs are too high. In addition, the patent landscape has changed over the years and it continues to evolve. While companies in many industries continue to file for patents as part of their corporate strategy, there has also been a growing anti-patent sentiment in many industries in general, which has weakened some patent protection and monetization approaches.

Patents Hurt By the Court

For example, the U.S. Supreme Court has issued several not-so-patent-friendly decisions over the past several years, while Congress has also made some significant changes to patent laws in the country during the past few years that have somewhat weakened patents’ power. These changes have made it easier to question the validity of patents, made it tougher to patent inventions that consists of abstract ideas and made it harder to obtain injunctions against infringers. That leaves many in the clean energy sector wondering what their next move should be.

Companies Must Take a Broad Approach

There are a few options, including protecting a company’s trade secrets, such as manufacturing formulations and methods or technical developments. Another option is to focus on IP strategies that are tailored to and focused on a company’s exact business. Patents should still be a key component of clean energy companies’ business strategy, but with so many changes in the patent landscape, companies will need to approach their patents with a wider view in order to consider both legal and technical concerns and business objectives.