By Phyllis Mak, Altitude Accelerator’s Communications Intern
When everybody is trying to launch their product and business in a highly competitive environment, there are some who will take advantage of new entrepreneurs trying to navigate through an unfamiliar field of complicated terminology and patent processes. What constitutes as a high quality patent versus a low quality patent? When should you suspect that your agent is not providing the required level of guidance and expertise, or is overcharging you for unnecessary services? How can you tell when you’ve been scammed, and what can be done to prevent this?
Kevin Shipley is a member of Bereskin & Parr Intellectual Property Law Firm, one of Canada’s leading IP firms. With a focus on patent prosecution, Kevin brings his diverse experience from years of patent prosecution and mechanical innovations to help his clients address and stop these problems.
Kevin identifies two major problems in the business industry: malicious scams (phony emails, fraudulent patents, excessive overcharging) and untrustworthy agents creating ‘patent mills’— traps for clients who fall for the deceivingly low initial fees to get them to the door and are then exploited for their inexperience and their lack of knowledge regarding the legal quality of the patent. They may ultimately obtain patents of little to no commercial value for unfairly expensive costs.
Kevin’s job is to help ensure that his clients know where to start looking for legitimate patent agents and advisors, and how to identify the tricks and ploys used to lure entrepreneurs in.
“The patent mills make their money by churning out high volumes of very low quality work product, and never dealing with any of the follow-up issues,” says Kevin. Once the problems begin to arise, the clients are left stranded and the integrity of their product compromised.
Once the process has started, any problems that crop up as a result of scams and bad advisors often don’t appear until 2-3 years later. By then, it’s too late. One of the best defences against this kind of fraud is to find a trusted patent agent from the start. At the Altitude Accelerator’s intensive startup programs, Kevin teaches clients, new entrepreneurs, and concerned companies how to differentiate a good patent agent from a bad one.
“Good agents will be interested in your overall business strategy, provide honest feedback, ask how your invention works, and keep you involved and informed about the process,” explains Kevin. “Bad agents will tell you everything is 100% patentable, simply rubber-stamp and file the papers you provide without review or comment, or surprise you with hidden or last minute fees.”
Additionally, a lack of questions regarding your invention or business, how patents may help your business, a rushed application process, inadequate review time, and a failure to provide you with professional options are also red flags for poor service and the possibility of a scam. Any price or offer that seems too good to be true is always worth a bit of investigation.
Staying informed about the patenting process is one of the best ways to prevent and avoid potential scam situations. Kevin’s work at the Altitude Accelerator helps guide clients away from the traps of con-artists and unsavoury individuals in a fast-paced, constantly transforming business environment.
Congratulations to Stephen Beney, a partner with Bereskin & Parr LLP, who was recently elected the President of the Intellectual Property Institute of Canada (IPIC)! You can learn more about different types of business patents and patent law with Bereskin & Parr LLP here. Don’t forget to check out the Altitude Accelerator’s upcoming IP-Focused Expert Speaker Series for more information and guidance on legal and business patent matters!