Risk & Economy » Compliance » Apple’s patent loss should be a stark warning to CFOs

Apple's patent loss should be a stark warning to CFOs

Investing in patent protection can provide a tangible tool that enables companies to safeguard their innovations and maintain a competitive advantage

In an unexpected twist to the bustling holiday retail season, Apple, the tech behemoth, has announced a strategic retreat from selling its latest smartwatch models in its US outlets. This decision, a tactical response to a patent infringement verdict, underscores the intricate web of intellectual property challenges faced by global tech giants.

The halt in sales of the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2, slated to commence pre-Christmas, follows a ruling by the US International Trade Commission. In a move described as ‘pre-emptive’, Apple will cease online sales from December 21 and in-store sales post-December 24.

This development traces back to an earlier legal entanglement, where a US judge ruled that a key innovation in Apple’s smartwatches, notably the blood oxygen sensor, infringed upon patents held by Masimo, a prominent player in the medical device sector. The ruling not only disrupts Apple’s sales trajectory but also spotlights the ongoing tussle between innovation and intellectual property rights.

While many organizations focus on patents and trademarks as legal safeguards, CFOs play a critical role in understanding the financial implications and value of these assets. When companies neglect to prioritize patent protection, they risk losing out on potential revenue and market share.

In today’s “first-to-file” patent systems, the first applicant to file a patent application for an invention wins the race, regardless of who actually invented it. This means that if a company delays filing a patent application, it may lose the opportunity to secure protection for its valuable intellectual property.

Long-term revenue stream

Investing in patent protection can provide a tangible tool that enables companies to safeguard their innovations and maintain a competitive advantage.

While there is a cost associated with securing patents, typically ranging from $25,000 to $35,000 over three to five years, the potential return on investment can far outweigh these expenses. By preventing competitors from copying their products or services, companies can ensure a continuous revenue stream for the next 20 years.

Patents can also serve as valuable assets for generating additional revenue through licensing agreements. Companies can monetise their patented inventions by granting licenses to other organizations, allowing them to use the technology in exchange for royalties.

Furthermore, patents can be leveraged as bargaining chips in negotiations with competitors attempting to enforce their own patent rights.

The risk of neglecting protection

In addition to patents, CFOs should also prioritize trademark protection to safeguard their company’s brands. Trademarks provide exclusive rights to use specific names, logos, or symbols in association with goods or services, preventing others from using similar marks that could confuse consumers. Neglecting to protect trademarks can have adverse consequences for a company’s brand recognition and market position.

When companies fail to police their trademarks, other businesses may use similar marks, diluting the uniqueness and distinctiveness of the company’s brand. This can lead to consumer confusion and potentially damage the reputation and value of the brand. By proactively registering and protecting trademarks, companies can maintain control over their brand identity and market presence.

In many countries, including the United States, trademark rights are determined based on the first party to use the mark, rather than the first party to file for registration. This means that companies need to be vigilant in establishing and maintaining a record of their trademark usage to demonstrate their seniority and rightful ownership of the mark. Failure to do so may result in losing legal protections and the ability to enforce trademark rights against infringers.

Registering trademarks is a relatively low-cost investment compared to the potential benefits they offer. The average cost of a trademark registration ranges from $2,500 to $5,000 spread over one to two years. Conducting a comprehensive search for competitor marks during the selection process of new trademarks may incur an additional cost but can help identify potential obstacles early on, saving significant marketing expenses.

Collaborating with CFOs for effective IP strategy

To secure the necessary resources for patent and trademark protection, patent attorneys and IP professionals must effectively communicate the value and financial implications to CFOs. By understanding the CFO’s perspective and addressing their concerns, the IP team can gain buy-in and support for IP strategy implementation.

When discussing the importance of IP protection, it is crucial to emphasise the overall organizational impact rather than focusing solely on departmental benefits. CFOs are primarily concerned with the financial implications and value added to the company as a whole. By demonstrating how patent and trademark protection contribute to revenue generation, market share preservation, and brand value, CFOs are more likely to recognise the importance of these initiatives.

Making a Financial Case

To convince CFOs of the value of IP protection, strong financial arguments should be presented. This can be achieved by quantifying the potential return on investment and cost savings associated with patent and trademark protection. For example, calculating the hours and costs saved by automating certain processes with legal tech tools can demonstrate the financial benefits and justify the investment.

CFOs are responsible for managing the company’s budget and allocating resources effectively. It is crucial for IP professionals to understand the budgeting process within their organisation to identify potential funding opportunities.

By aligning IP initiatives with budget cycles, identifying available funds from cancelled projects or reserves, and proposing realistic options for financing IP protection, IP professionals can increase the likelihood of receiving approval from the CFO.

Was this article helpful?

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to get your daily business insights