Back-to-School Inventions That Were Revolutionary

Back to School

As autumn draws near, thoughts turn to the upcoming school year. One of the most highly anticipated parts of going back to school is the supplies.

Here’s a look at the invention of some of the most common and best-loved school supplies.

Crayons

Is it possible that Pennsylvania cousins C. Harold Smith and Edwin Binney could have known how popular and timeless their 1903 invention would become?

Of course, this pair of inventors didn’t invent the crayon. That honor belongs to European inventors who created a crayon using a mixture of oil and charcoal. Eventually, pigmented hues would take the place of charcoal, giving artists a rainbow of colors.

The Crayola Crayons that are the staple of every child’s desk were first offered for sale in 1903. Alice Binney, the wife of one of the crayon’s innovators, coined the name “Crayola” from the French word for a stick of chalk “craie” and by shortening the oily word “oleaginous.”

Made from colored pigments and paraffin wax, Crayola Crayons started out with eight colors. Today, there are hundreds of options.

Eraser

The eraser is an indispensable tool in any classroom, but this technology wasn’t as obvious in earlier centuries as it is today. Throughout the decades, people tried a variety of substances to get rid of mistakes written in ink or lead.

A tablet of wax, some rough sandstone or even a piece of soft bread might have been able to obliterate written mistakes in those days. Then, English engineer Edward Nairne tried to use a piece of natural rubber instead of a morsel of bread. The year was 1770, and Nairne began selling rubbers. However, these rubbers had drawbacks like a peculiar odor and a tendency to crumble during use.

Charles Goodyear refined the process of making rubber erasers in 1839 when he developed a process for vulcanization of rubber. This made erasers more durable, and they became a household staple. Inventor Hymen Lipman later patented his idea for attaching an eraser to the tip of a pencil, though the patent later was invalidated.

Nonetheless, the eraser, whether attached to a pencil or not, remains an indispensable tool in the classroom.

Pencil Sharpener

Long gone are the days of needing a knife or sandpaper to sharpen a pencil. Today, students use a mechanical or electric pencil sharpener. It’s much faster and more convenient, but how did we arrive at this marvelous innovation?

It was Bernard Lassimonne, a French mathematician, who received the first patent for a pencil sharpener. The year was 1828, and the device relied on a block of wood inset with metal files set at 90 degrees to each other. Cumbersome to use, the device never caught on.

However, another Frenchman, Thierry des Estivaux, was waiting in the wings with an improvement. This device consisted of a single blade in a cone-shaped housing. Today, this is called a prism sharpener, and it’s still in use.

One of the most important pencil sharpener improvements was created in the U.S. by John Lee Love, an African-American inventor. While working in Fall River, Massachusetts as a carpenter, Love invented the Love Sharpener, the first portable pencil sharpener. Love was able to patent his invention in 1897.

Lunch Box

Choosing the right lunch box is something of a declaration of the carrier’s personality. However, lunch boxes had a much more utilitarian beginning in the 19th century. Those lunch boxes were plain and functional, most often carried by working men, and usually were constructed of metal to ensure durability even in places like mines and quarries.

It wasn’t until 1902 that lunch boxes designed for kids were introduced. These were often made to resemble small picnic baskets, but it wasn’t long before entrepreneurs saw an opportunity.

One of the earliest of these was Walt Disney. His hugely popular animated character, Mickey Mouse, was the first character to be featured on a lunch box. Soon, Hopalong Cassidy and the Lone Ranger, and later the Beatles, the Partridge Family and the Harlem Globetrotters, were showing up on lunch boxes everywhere.

Today, metal lunch boxes are rare as most are now manufactured from molded plastic.

White-Out

Sometimes also called liquid paper, typist Bette Nesmith Graham invented White-Out in 1956. Initially, the substance consisted of tempera paint that was run through Graham’s kitchen blender. She began distributing bottles of her “Mistake Out” to her colleagues.

Two years later, Graham founded the Mistake Out Company, still working in her kitchen and garage. The venture finally became a full-time one, and Graham sold the company to the Gillette Corporation in 1979.

Whether your invention belongs in the classroom, the factory or the operating room, it’s wise to protect it with a patent. Speak with the IP professionals at Williams IP Law to learn more about how to protect your innovation.

What You Need To Know About Textile Patents

The textile industry has always been an innovative one. It’s also one of the oldest industries, dating back nearly to the dawn of civilization.

Despite the long history of textiles, there are still plenty of innovations to be made. These may include a trendy new fabric design that’s the talk of the runways in Milan or a woven fabric that could function as an implantable medical device. Regardless, some form of intellectual property, or IP, protection may be necessary.

A closer look at the history of textiles and its relationship to intellectual property will make this clear.

History of Textiles

From the Latin word “texere,” meaning “to weave,” textiles typically are flexible materials composed of networks of either artificial or natural fibers, which usually are called yarn. The yarn is then pressed, knotted, crocheted, knitted or woven into a textile.

Some of the earliest examples of textile manufacture date back to the sixth and seventh centuries BC in Europe. India was spinning cotton as early as 3,000 BC and was manufacturing silk by 400 AD. Egyptians began spinning and weaving linen around 3,400 BC while the Chinese started spinning silk around 2,600 BC.

Raw wool was the most commonly used textile material for centuries. Some societies also used flax or cotton. Textile operations were small, perhaps just a single cottage in a village where manufactured goods were painstakingly produced by hand.

In the latter half of the 18th century, the dawn of the Industrial Revolution permanently changed the textile manufacturing landscape. Hand production became less prominent during the following decades, and machines powered by steam or water dominated factories across Europe and America.

Innovations like the spinning jenny and the flying shuttle made it easier than ever before to produce mass quantities of textiles. Of course, all of these machines and their component parts needed IP protection, and so did some of the textiles that they were used to manufacture.

Textiles & Intellectual Property

Improvements in the manufacture of textiles go hand-in-hand with IP protection. An inventor who makes a significant improvement on a sewing machine or who builds an entirely new weaving machine certainly will want to seek patent protection for it.

However, other forms of IP protection also may be appropriate. It is possible to protect a new fabric or other textile with a design patent, which is directed to a “new, original, and ornamental design.” Obtaining design patent protection usually is less complicated than obtaining a utility patent, yet it still provides valuable coverage. Any non-functional aspect of the design may be protected, and this protection extends for a period of 14 years.

Alternatively, it may be appropriate to seek a trademark registration for a textile. In the U.S., trademarks function as source identifiers. It is possible for a fabric design as well as a footwear or clothing design to be protected as a trademark. Obtaining a trademark registration for a textile can be tricky as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office does not consider such designs “inherently distinctive.” Instead, the applicant must demonstrate a secondary meaning or some level of acquired distinctiveness before a registration is issued. A trademark registration can be maintained in perpetuity as long as the registered mark continues to be used in U.S. commerce.

Copyright Protection for Textiles

The other alternative is to seek copyright protection on a new and innovative textile. In the U.S., a copyright protects original works that are fixed in some tangible form. “Useful” articles that perform a basic function are not eligible for copyright protection. Accordingly, a design for a new pair of shoes or an overcoat would not be able to be protected by copyright.

Nonetheless, any original, non-functional design may be able to become a registered copyright. Although registration is not required in order to hold a copyright, it is recommended as it provides the owner with additional opportunities before the law to pursue anyone who infringes the registered copyright.

Contact the Williams IP Law

If you have invented a new and innovative textile or have made an improvement to a machine that manufactures textiles, then it’s wise to consider whether or not formal IP protection may be needed. When you hold a patent, registered trademark or registered copyright, then you may have the right to prevent others from producing a similar textile or copying your manufacturing improvement.

Contact Jeff Williams today to schedule a consultation to discuss this and other IP-related matters.

Oil & Gas Patenting Trends and Innovation

The oil and gas industry has always been an innovative one. Over the decades, drilling for natural resources has required ever-more-sophisticated technology to tap into reserves that were unknown or impossible to exploit for earlier generations.

Consequently, the oil and gas industry has always pursued a multitude of patents. While that remains true, the protected technology has certainly evolved. Keeping up with these trends makes it possible for entrepreneurs and organizations to stay on top of the industry and remain competitive.

Patent Filing Trends

Today, most oil and gas industry patents are focused in areas such as:

  • Earth drilling;
  • Geophysics;
  • Metalworking technologies; and
  • Climate change–mitigation technologies

Earth drilling is by far the most frequently used technology in the field. It comes as no surprise then that most industry patents cover some aspect of this technology.

In an interesting trend, as the world emerged from the Great Recession that began in 2008, patent filings increased overall. However, patent applications in the oil and gas industry did not experience quite the same robust growth rate. Moreover, the focus of these patent applications had definitely switched to the areas listed above, with hydraulic fracturing receiving an even greater emphasis.

Patent Innovation for Hydraulic Fracturing

Hydraulic fracturing, which commonly is referred to as fracking, involves cutting-edge technology in this field. A fracking fluid is pumped into an oil well under extreme pressures. The introduction of the fluid causes underground rock formations to fracture. These fractures stimulate the production of oil and gas.

Fracking techniques may be combined with horitzontal wells to reach previously unobtainable reserves.

Since 2006, oil and gas companies have filed approximately 1,000 patent applications related to fracking technology. The number of filings in this area has steadily increased each year, with the covered technology relating to both the tools and methods that are needed to exploit oil reserves.

Many players in the industry are seeking coverage for other technologies that are related to fracking. These may include systems and tools for monitoring fractures and proppants, finding the best positioning for horizontal drilling operations, controlling the heat resistance of fracking fluids and treating the waste products that are left over from the use of fracking fluid.

Trend in Patent Infringement Cases

As companies in the oil and gas industry have increased the number of patent applications they are filing, the opportunities for infringement have multiplied. Recall that the innovations that are disclosed in a patent application are afforded some level of protection as soon as the application is filed. The U.S. is now a first-to-file country, which means that the first party to file an application for a given technology is regarded as the first to have come up with the idea.

Accordingly, it is possible for patent applicants to begin informing others of their rights whenever they suspect that a competitor is somehow using their proprietary technology. The publication of the patent application, which frequently occurs approximately 18 months after filing, can serve as notice to competitors that they may be infringing.

Key Countries For Oil And Gas Innovation

Research suggests that most oil and gas industry related patents are being filed in the United States, China and Japan. Consequently, it is sensible for inventors or their employers to file patent applications at least in the U.S. to protect their ideas. It also may be worthwhile to consider filing national-phase applications in China, Japan and elsewhere that the technology may be used or infringed upon.

Contact Williams IP Law

The legal professionals at the Williams IP Law have considerable experience in the oil and gas industry. In the course of their practice, they have filed U.S. as well as PCT and national-phase patent applications. Partnerships with other intellectual property attorneys around the world make this a cost-effective and convenient process.

If you have an innovation that you would like to protect with a patent or are concerned that a competitor is infringing your rights in the oil and gas industry then it’s time to schedule a consultation with Jeffrey Williams.

How COVID-19 in Shaping Patent Law and Important Changes

As the Coronavirus spreads across the globe, scientists realized that this was an unknown virus. The medical tools that might be used to detect, treat and prevent it don’t exist.

Developing new tests and treatments requires time and money. Moreover, it’s necessary for these innovations to be tested and attain approval from the FDA or other agencies.

Here’s a look at some of the patent-related efforts that are underway to fight COVID-19.

What is the Facilitating Innovation to Fight Coronavirus Act?

Recently, a bill was drafted in the U.S. Its goal is removing barriers to inventing medical interventions that may be able to prevent or treat COVID-19.

Legal analysts tend to agree that the proposed legislation is a hodgepodge of laudable ideas and unintended consequences. The proposed act contains two sections, the first of which protects individuals from liability lawsuits arising from Coronavirus treatments.

The second section suspends the patent rights of certain medical products and provides a 10-year patent term extension beginning after the pandemic.

Analysts tend to see little problem with the first section, but the second one is causing concern. Critics feel that it’s just too vague. Biomedical firms heavily invest in new products. They bear these expenses because of the exclusivity that’s granted to them through a patent, which means that they may recoup their costs.

Unfortunately, the proposed legislation is too vague about how a new patent application that covers relevant technology would be treated. Does the clock on its term not start until the end of the pandemic, and then is the patent eligible for an additional 10 years?

If the law passes as written, it would mean that the inventors no longer had “exclusive” rights, which is one of the primary reasons why patents are pursued. Moreover, inventors would have to worry about infringing actions occurring at a time when they should enjoy perfect exclusivity.

How will patent owners re-establish exclusivity when the pandemic is over? The invention will have entered the public domain, making this a potentially impossible task.

Hopefully, this bill will be clarified before being adopted.

Patent Protections and Relaxation During the Pandemic

The relaxation of patent protections is occurring around the world In Israel, the government wants to made use of Abbvie’s drug known as Kaletra to treat COVID-19, but there isn’t enough of it in the country. Abbvie held patents in several countries for Kaletra, many of which have which expired.

Their Israeli patent is still in force, so that government is looking at obtaining generic Kaletra from another country, such as India, where the patent has expired.

In response, Abbvie announced that they would cease patent enforcement with regard to Kaletra, paving a cooperative way forward.

This approach makes sense in the case of a drug that’s near the end of its patentable life. Nonetheless, it’s vital that governments always consult with patent holders before looking for ways around their rights.

Lengthening Patent Terms and its Effect on Innovators

Governments are seeking to prevent innovators from profiteering from Coronavirus. They mainly are accomplishing this by passing legislation that allows them to produce any patented item that might help in the fight.

The U.S. government’s approach is different. The Coronavirus-relief bills provide billions of dollars’ worth of public research money to federal agencies to develop treatments and vaccines. Is it ethical for a government agency to receive an additional 10-year patent term on life-saving treatments or vaccines that should be freely available?

Many critics don’t think so, citing the stance taken by Jonas Salk when he developed the polio vaccine. Salk declared that his innovation needed to be owned by the public, and people say that the same approach should apply here.

Will the thought of not having the exclusive right to profit from a vaccine or treatment stop innovators? It’s possible, but there’s hope that an altruistic spirit will motivate the right inventors to find a cure.

COVID-19 Innovations & Keeping Your IP Safe

Despite the current uncertainty with regard to patent protection for Coronavirus-related technologies, it’s wise to seek patent protection. With shortages of items like face masks and medicines, there’s a proliferation of adulterated or counterfeit goods. Pursuing a patent gives you the right to prevent this.

In the spirit of cooperation, educational institutions, government agencies and biomedical firms are pledging to make their COVID-19 research freely available without enforcing patent rights. Whether your invention helps to stop the pandemic or not, contact Williams IP Law to discuss how to protect your IP.

Intellectual Property Search Basics

Patent Protection

It’s important to remember that the patent search is only one step in a much longer process. If the results of the search are favorable, then drafting the patent application may begin.

The inventor is by no means required to immediately pursue patent protection after a search is completed. However, there may be benefits to filing an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office with all possible speed.

The U.S. is now a “first to file” country, which means that the first inventor to file an application for new technology is the individual who is deemed to be the originator of the idea and therefore eligible for a patent.

This contrasts with the prior U.S. system under which a “first to invent” rule was followed. Under this system, an inventor who could produce documentation showing that they were the originator of a product or process could prevail over another inventor who filed their application first.

Accordingly, inventors may feel a great deal of pressure to immediately pursue patent protection. This is where the advice of a qualified intellectual property attorney becomes indispensable.

Your attorney can help you to determine whether or not your invention is sufficiently well-developed to pursue patent protection. If you are still deep in the development process, then your attorney may recommend filing a provisional patent application.

Such an application preserves an earlier filing date for your invention while also providing you with one year in which you may continue to develop the technology. You may rely on the guidance of your IP attorney during this time. At the end of the year, you may file a non-provisional patent application that more completely describes your invention. This application will be examined by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and it also may issue as a patent.

Should I Do A Trademark Search?

It is always advisable to do a trademark search before you proceed with selecting a name for a business, band name, slogan, or any other symbol, mark, or terminology to represent your product and service to the public.

Typically it is best to do the trademark search at the very first stages of the process. Costs and efforts associated in getting a new product to the market, branding, and advertising can be relatively high.

It can be disheartening, frustrating, and harmful to your business to begin such a process without first making sure you trademark is clear from potential issues. It is common to see demand letters for infringement when a proper trademark search was not performed prior to using a mark.

There are 45 trademark classes which are essentially categories of marks split based on the type of the good or service that can be registered by the USPTO. It can be a tedious process to search this on your own with all of the different options available.

It’s also important to search for unregistered trademarks because even though a trademark is unregistered it could still prevent you registering your trademark and could still lead to trademark infringement.

The cost to perform a search is extremely small when compared to trademark infringement.

To learn more about the patent and trademark search process set up a FREE Consultation with Jeff Williams.

Strange Inventions of April Fool’s Day

This year’s April Fool’s Day is different than most. With most of the country on lockdown, it’s gotten far more difficult to play a prank on those who are nearest and dearest.

With a little luck, next year the country can get back to its usual first of April shenanigans. Until then, here’s a lighthearted look at some of the weirdest invention ideas ever to cross the desks at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office … or did they?

Smellovision

Who wouldn’t want to be able to smell the things that they are seeing on their television? That appears to have been the inspiration behind the Smellovision. Ostensibly created by a professor at London University around 1965, the invention was introduced on BBC TV. The inventor claimed that the technology would allow viewers to smell things like coffee and onions when they appeared on the screen.

Advising viewers to stand some six feet away from their television and sniff to get the best results, the inventor asked that people call in before noon the following day to report whether or not they had been able to smell anything.

Fortunately or unfortunately, this “invention” was really just an experiment dealing with the power of suggestion. Although many people claimed to have actually smelled the items presented on BBC TV, the reality is that we are still waiting for someone to invent a real Smellovision.

The Kodak EyeCamera 4.1

When inventors at the Kodak company proposed an idea for eye glasses that had a camera lens attached, the idea seemed like an outlandish one. While the advertisements for the product didn’t exactly promise X-ray vision, they certainly did make some claims that were difficult to believe. However, what was even worse was the appearance of the product, which was effectively a pair of eyeglasses with an actual camera lens occupying one side.

This was only an April Fool’s joke, but similar technology for facial recognition that is embedded in eyeglasses exists today.

Teleportation Machine

In 2013, the University of Michigan College of Engineering revealed the development of a working teleportation machine. Professor Xavier Vlad released a video demonstrating the teleportation of a key from one location to another.

Unfortunately, Vlad was later forced to admit that this video was produced in the name of good fun rather than scientific advancement.

A Clutter-Vaporizing Smartphone App

Are you ever bothered by the sheer amount of stuff that’s cluttering up your house? Are you embarrassed to invite people over for fear that they might think you’re a hoarder?

If so, then you need this app from Houzz that vaporizes clutter with the click of a button on your smartphone. Unfortunately, this one is prank from 2017.

Invisible Glasses

This is the invention for the person who hates to wear glasses and contacts but still requires vision correction. GlassesUSA.com came up with the idea for TruSkin Invisible Glasses as an April Fool’s joke a few years ago. The product was advertised on their website with enough technical language and jargon to make it sound really convincing. How many people fell for this clever ruse?

A Drone-Powered Hologram that Attends Meetings for You

Have you ever wished that you could attend a meeting without having to actually be there? If so, then this one is for you. This 2017 prank advertising Prysm Avatar made some pretty outlandish claims, but it’s a cinch that there were some tech-loving people who fell hard for the idea of combining drones with holograms.

If you have a real invention that you would like to protect with a patent, feel free to contact us at any time. We are always ready to review new ideas and go over all of the possibilities that are available for protecting your intellectual property.

Basics of a Patent Claim

A patent application contains many parts. These include components such as a specification, claims, an abstract and drawings. While drawings are not required, all of the other components are.

Perhaps the most important required part of the patent application is the claims. When they are new to patent prosecution, most people don’t know what a patent claim is. That’s why working with a skilled intellectual property attorney is so vital. They can walk you through the process and craft a claims set that protects your invention from every angle.

What Is a Patent Claim?

The patent claims define in technical language the scope or extent of the protection that is granted by the patent. Effectively, the claims define the specific subject matter that the patent covers. A competitor that begins making and selling a similar product may be accused of infringing the claims of an existing patent.

A patent basically grants the right to exclude other people from making, using, selling or importing any items that are covered by the claims of an issued patent. While claims may cover an “apparatus,” they also may be written to cover a process. When this occurs, the claims are referred to as method claims. These claims define the steps required to complete an innovative process. Accordingly, a competitor is precluded from being able to use the steps of the protected process.

How Important Are Patent Claims?

Drafting a sufficiently broad yet narrow set of claims is an incredibly difficult process. It’s important to cover all new and inventive aspects of the apparatus or method. At the same time, the claims need to be narrow enough to avoid the risk of infringing other existing patents that are focused on the same industry.

Suppose an inventor creates a widget that requires components A, B and C. The inventor obtains a patent that protects each of these components. Then, a competitor comes along and begins manufacturing a similar widget that contains components A, B and C. The original inventor will have an excellent case for patent infringement against the competitor.

However, if one competitor is using component A but not components B and C and yet another competitor is using component B but not A or C, then it would be virtually impossible to make a case for patent infringement because neither of these competitors is making the widget with all three components.

This means that it is essential for the claims to be drafted with extreme care. They must be written so that infringement by one entity is possible. This offers the patentee the greatest breadth of protection.

What Are the Types of Patent Claims?

Claims may be directed to an apparatus, device or item. Accordingly, they will describe the various components of the invented item.

On the other hand, an inventor may have developed a new process for doing something. It will be necessary to draft method claims to define the process for attaining an intended result.

Independent Claims

This type of patent claim stands alone. That is, an independent claim is one that is unattached to other claims. Accordingly, they do not refer back to any other claim.

Typically, an independent claim includes a preamble or an introduction before moving on to identify all of the components that are necessary for defining the subject invention. The introduction names the invention and also may detail the use of the invention. A transitional phrase follows to serve as a connection between the introduction and the various components. Next, the independent claim lists the components.

It is common for the first claim in a patent application to be an independent one. Broader than the claims that follow it, the independent claim is written in a manner that is designed to anticipate the efforts of would-be infringers to get around the independent claim.

In general, independent claims are written in one of three forms. These are designed to claim one of: an invention, a method of making an invention or a method for implementing an invention.

Dependent Claims

These claims are so named because they refer back to an earlier independent or dependent claim, thereby limiting the scope of those earlier claims. Accordingly, dependent claims are relatively narrower in scope than the previous claim from which they depend. Under U.S. patent law, a dependent claim must make an additional limitation to the independent claim.

It also is possible that a dependent claim will identify various trivial aspects, optional features or a variety of non-essential features that are not included in the earlier claims.

Dependent claims are an essential part of patent applications in the United States. This is because the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office charges additional fees for every independent claim in excess of three independent claims in a single patent application.

Special Claims

It is most common for patent applications in the United States to include between one and three independent and multiple dependent claims. However, sometimes there are situations in which special claim types are necessary.

These special claims may include:

  • A Beauregard Claim – which is a claim relating to a method implemented by a computer
  • A Markgush Groups Claim – which is a claim that combines elements to limit the number of claims
  • A Jepson Claim – which is a claim that separates the new and old elements of the invention

What Is a Patent Claim Limitation?

Claims typically are made up of three parts. These are a preamble that gives context for the invention. Next comes a transitional phrase that establishes the claim as being open, closed or partially open. Effectively, this transitional phrase states just how much the claim is limited to only the recited elements in the body of the claim.

It is the third part of the claim, or the “body,” that contains the patent limitations. These include the structure or steps that are needed to define the invention. The terms must be full yet clear and concise, which is not an easy balance to achieve.

Each dependent claim effectively defines a further limitation to the independent claim.

Ask an Intellectual Property Attorney

If you have invented a new product or process and are interested in obtaining patent protection, then contact the experienced practitioners at Williams IP Law. Their skill at drafting strategic patent claims will ensure that you get the broadest and most meaningful protection possible.

The Pharmaceutical Patent Cliff

The Basic Premise

Like all other business ventures, pharmaceutical companies exist to make a profit. Typically, they achieve this goal by creating a useful new drug that cures or alleviates the symptoms of certain diseases and conditions.

Companies ensure that they have the exclusive right to manufacture and sell these drugs by obtaining patent protection. However, that protection doesn’t last forever. The expiration of a patent means that makers of generic drugs are able to enter the market, and that can mean a huge loss of revenue for the innovating company.

This means that it is critical for these organizations to plan for long-term growth and stability while also continuing to innovate for the future.

Patents for Pharmaceuticals

When a company creates a formula that brings about a beneficial effect in the treatment of an illness or disorder, they file for patent protection with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. When such a patent is granted, it provides the owner with the exclusive right to make, use and sell that drug for a period not exceeding 20 years from the date on which the patent application was filed.

When a drug is incredibly successful, it can easily earn billions of dollars for the innovating company. Unfortunately, it can take years to develop a new drug, and it may take even more years of trials before the drug is approved for use by the general public. This means that pharmaceutical companies have only a limited amount of time to financially benefit from sales of the drug. Of course, all of that research and development also is incredibly expensive.

What Is a Patent Cliff?

In recent years, the patents on many blockbuster drugs have expired. These include Pfizer’s Lipitor for lowering cholesterol, the blood thinner Plavix from Bristol-Myers and the antipsychotic drug called Zyprexa from Eli Lilly.

Each of these drugs has earned billions of dollars for their respective creators. However, as the patents come to the end of their terms, each of these companies approaches a patent cliff.

That cliff is represented by a precipitous drop in revenue as generic drug makers begin producing their own, far cheaper, versions of these drugs.

What Does the Pharmaceuticals Patent Cliff Mean Now?

The patent cliff may be good news for consumers and for the employers that provide them with health insurance. This is because the generic versions of drugs typically cost between 20 and 80 percent less than the brand-name versions did. A prescription that once cost nearly $100 per month may cost around $10 once it is available as a generic.

What is good news for consumers and employers is potentially disastrous news for innovating drug makers. Not only will they see their massive profits dissolve but also they will have less money available for researching and developing new blockbuster drugs.

With less money for research, the introduction of new drugs will dramatically slow. This means that people who could benefit from a new prescription drug will have to wait for it, perhaps for years. That can translate to the serious deterioration of the individual’s health or even their death, situations which could be avoided through the swifter availability of effective new medications.

Pharmaceutical Companies Seek to Make Generics Work for Them

Drug manufacturing companies are looking for ways to enter the generic drug market. Sometimes this means manufacturing their own generic version of the medicine. At other times, this means entering a new market somewhere else with the generic drug.

Some companies, such as Pfizer, long ago recognized the upcoming patent cliff and took steps to prepare themselves. Accordingly, Pfizer will manufacture both brand-name Lipitor and the generic atorvastatin in order to maintain as much market share as possible.

Whether your industry is pharmaceuticals or something entirely different, your valuable inventions and innovations may need to be protected with a patent. Work with qualified intellectual property counsel from Williams IP Law to plan a common-sense strategy for tomorrow and beyond.