Even the best businesses can be vulnerable if you haven’t taken the proper steps to protect and defend your company with patents. As the Sharks have proven time and again, the best investments are those that aren’t susceptible to patent disputes because the company is already legally protected by design or utility patents. While sometimes patents can be a double-edged sword (remember the difficult time the Sharks had with Season Three’s Scott Jordan, and his technology-enabled clothing?), it’s critical for business owners to define their differentiating feature, and to be able to defend it in the dog-eat-dog marketplace.
Season Four’s Tereson Dupuy, founder and owner of FuzziBunz, learned the hard way the real costs of having weak patents and working with dishonest international manufacturers. Although Tereson had a patent on her reusable diaper design, she didn’t realize how weak her patent was until international manufacturers ripped off her design. Making matters worse, these international manufacturers are now squatting on her patents and Tereson estimates that they’re making $30-40 million annually off of her original design. While this put FuzziBunz in an unfortunately predicament in the Shark Tank, it serves as a lesson to investors about the value of having good attorneys and watertight patents (especially if international manufacturers are involved).
Especially for business owners just getting started, be sure to make the patent process a top priority in the establishment of your business. While it may be a steep investment to hire a trusted legal advisor when you’re just getting started, it’s a valuable investment and a critical step in protecting your business for the long term.
Do you have any tips for applying for patents or protecting your business from patent disputes?