By: Christopher Heer and Michelle Huong
Wearable technology (“wearables”) is not just a feature of Sci-Fi movies. Today, wearables are ubiquitous: from watches that track our daily steps and dim the house lights, to jackets with built-in heaters, and medical socks that monitor our foot health. Wearables are smart electronic devices that detect and relay information to users or other devices in real-time. The benefits of wearables are numerous – users are able to monitor their fitness metrics, experience increased productivity by controlling devices at their fingertips, and communicate with greater ease. The wearables industry, part of the Internet of Things, has grown by more than 30% in 2018 and is projected to flourish further with the advancement of other related technologies such as machine learning, commodity sensors, and thermoelectrics. The broad application of wearables in several industries such as healthcare, home appliances, and fashion, represents exciting business opportunities for innovative companies and budding inventors alike.
Successful commercialization of wearable inventions often involves sound patent strategy. In Canada, for an invention to be patentable, it must be of a patentable subject matter, novel, useful, and non-obvious. Patent holders have the exclusive right to making, using, or selling their patented technology generally for a maximum period of 20 years from the filing date of the patent application. Patents are crucial to the commercial success of inventions – they increase the likelihood of a patent holder’s ability to recover research and development costs, and they can act as an asset to attract investors.
In applying for a patent for wearable inventions, here are three strategies to keep in mind:
- Patent Database Searches and Due Diligence
Research and development initiatives are especially costly in crowded industries full of patents. Accordingly, many inventors will consult a patent lawyer to obtain a patentability assessment opinion before extensively developing the prototypes of their inventions. A search of patent databases will give insight into existing patents similar to the proposed invention, while an opinion will evaluate the likelihood of obtaining a patent for that invention. Such due diligence on the patent landscape is a proactive strategy that can increase the chances of successfully obtaining a patent, with potentially fewer patent office objections to overcome during the examination of the patent application.
- Disclosure Requirements and Prior Art
In Canada, as part of novelty requirements, an invention must not have been previously disclosed to the public by the prior art, in any part of the world. However, there is a one-year grace period that applies in Canada for disclosures by the patent applicant and those who disclose information obtained from the applicant. Prior art can include earlier patents, research publications, and the use or sale of the very same invention applied to be patented. If any prior art anticipates the invention in question, the invention lacks novelty, and will not be patentable. Accordingly, it is advisable to apply for a patent before making any disclosure concerning the invention.
- Geography of Business Operations
Patent protection is territorial – an invention patented only in Canada will not be protected in a foreign jurisdiction. An inventor planning to expand their business operations into a foreign market or sell their inventions on e-commerce platforms to international clientele will benefit from applying for a patent in that foreign market. Without a patent, inventors may have significantly greater difficulty preventing others from copying, using, or selling their inventions.
Implementing the above strategies may bring you one step closer to obtaining a patent for your inventions. If you would like to protect your inventions and turn them into value-generating assets, consider consulting an intellectual property lawyer.
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