What's a patent worth?

Back to TopE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Indiana Lawyer Focus

The question of “What is my patent worth?” is never an easy one to answer, according to intellectual property attorneys and others who specialize in helping patent holders determine what they should expect for a patent – whether that’s determining the value of filing a patent, what a patent is worth when doing a business transaction, or the patent’s value when it is the focus of a lawsuit.

Starting with the filing process, an attorney who always explains the different factors of patent valuations to clients is Vic Indiano, of Indiano & Vaughn in Indianapolis. He said he will let clients and potential clients know how expensive it will be just to file a patent and try to be as honest as possible.

Vic Indiano Indiano

“Every conversation I have with clients starts with a lie,” he said. “When a client says, ‘Vic, I want to file for a patent,’ they’re really saying, ‘Vic, I want to make money.’”

He compared the way inventors think of their inventions as the way parents care for their children, which makes it difficult for inventors to take a step back and realize the real value beyond what the inventor thinks his invention is worth.

While not all attorneys will tell clients exactly how expensive a patent can be, Indiano said he’ll give his clients an estimate of $10,000 to $20,000 just to file the patent. That doesn’t include the cost of a prototype, marketing and advertising, research and development, and any other business costs. So sometimes in the beginning, the client will decide the cost of the patent might be better spent on something else.

“A patent is a capital investment you make to make money,” he said.

In other words, if a patent makes money, that’s good; if it loses money, that’s bad, especially for his clients who are individuals or small businesses.

He also tells clients to consider other costs, the potential profit margin, how many people will want to buy the product, and competing products that already exist.

In one case, he had a client who was making a product that was for large-scale grocery-pallet producers. That client decided not to get a patent because he knew his market was only about a dozen potential customers, and if he could get enough of them to buy the product and therefore saturate the market, a patent wasn’t worth the expense.

Another client who invented a particular kind of cardboard box wanted a patent because he planned to sell the box to large box stores like Wal-Mart and K-Mart. He knew that if he showed the idea to those stores and if they liked it, they would find someone else to manufacture the same box or something remarkably similar.

That wouldn’t happen or be as likely to happen if he had a patent.

“Or at least he wouldn’t get beat up too bad by larger manufacturers,” Indiano said, adding in the end, the client got the patent and made some money.

A value of a patent also can’t be easily calculated if it’s part of a transaction.

“In a lot of cases, patents are the foundations for a deal,” said Mike Pellegrino, president of Pellegrino and Associates in Indianapolis. “They are often given little consideration in the deal itself, yet it can be remarkable how valuable a seemingly small thing can be.”

One patent that was physically small but extremely valuable was the 11-page, 4,400-word patent for Lipitor. He described it as the most profitable kind of patent ever created.

While not a lawyer, Pellegrino is an engineer whose company specializes in patent valuations. He recently organized a CLE for ICLEF regarding patent valuations.

He said he sometimes sees some “horrible deals” by the time they get to him, whether it’s an under- or over-valued patent, depending on which side he’s looking at.

While it’s not always too late to fix a deal gone bad, he said a few minutes on the phone with an expert can save a lot of time and money in the long run, especially for attorneys whose time is valuable to them and their clients.

Dustin Dubois Dubois

Dustin Dubois, a partner at Ice Miller, also considers the value of patents in transactions and for companies looking for investors.

“For example, fairly large successful software company A had a lot of product development dollars they were spending at the beginning. While IP was a focus, it wasn’t a critical focus at first. As time passed, the company wanted to take a more aggressive approach to its IP because 1, more dollars were available, and 2, it’s expected by the investment community.”

He said patents also have different values to the companies that have them.

“Some companies are looking to build their portfolios to exclude the competition from doing what they do,” he said. “Some have the belief they’ll never use their patent as something to sue someone on, but they will use it as a defense if they are ever sued.”

He added different industries approach this in different ways.

Another issue companies and investors look at is the likelihood they’ll be sued over a patent.

However, decisions of the Federal Circuit are also showing signs that the judges are taking a more scrutinizing look at evidence and testimony when determining royalties, according to Trevor Carter of Baker & Daniels.

Trevor Carter Carter

He discussed recent Federal Circuit decisions as part of the same CLE Pellegrino organized. He added that Congress is also working on patent reform legislation. Efforts by both branches could mean significant changes for how much patents are worth, but there is still no defined way to definitively calculate the value of a patent.

Among the cases that have had significant outcomes for IP valuations, Carter said, as the April 2009 case Cornell University v. Hewlett-Packard Co. In that case, the Federal Circuit reduced a $186 million verdict to $53 million. He also mentioned two other cases: a September 2009 case, Lucent Techs. Inc. v. Gateway Inc., where the Federal Circuit vacated a $357 million damages award; and a February 2010 case, where the Federal Circuit vacated a damages award in Inc. v. Lansa Inc.

Because there’s no cut and dry way to value a patent, those who specialize in the area strongly suggest attorneys without expertise in either IP or the type of technology their client is dealing with should hire an expert as soon as they realize they might need more help.

“You don’t know what you don’t know,” Pellegrino said.•


Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  2. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  3. Paul Hartman of Burbank, Oh who is helping Sister Fuller with this Con Artist Kevin Bart McCarthy scares Sister Joseph Therese, Patricia Ann Fuller very much that McCarthy will try and hurt Patricia Ann Fuller and Paul Hartman of Burbank, Oh or any member of his family. Sister is very, very scared, (YES, I AM) This McCarthy guy is a real, real CON MAN and crook. I try to totall flatter Kevin Bart McCARTHY to keep him from hurting my best friends in this world which are Carolyn Rose and Paul Hartman. I Live in total fear of this man Kevin Bart McCarthy and try to praise him as a good man to keep us ALL from his bad deeds. This man could easy have some one cause us a very bad disability. You have to PRAISAE in order TO PROTECT yourself. He lies and makes up stories about people and then tries to steal if THEY OWN THRU THE COURTS A SPECIAL DEVOTION TO PROTECT, EX> Our Lady of America DEVOTION. EVERYONE who reads this, PLEASE BE CAREFUL of Kevin Bart McCarthy of Indianapolis, IN My Phone No. IS 419-435-3838.

  4. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.

  5. I had a hospital and dcs caseworker falsify reports that my child was born with drugs in her system. I filed a complaint with the Indiana department of health....and they found that the hospital falsified drug screens in their investigation. Then I filed a complaint with human health services in Washington DC...dcs drug Testing is unregulated and is indicating false positives...they are currently being investigated by human health services. Then I located an attorney and signed contracts one month ago to sue dcs and Anderson community hospital. Once the suit is filed I am taking out a loan against the suit and paying a law firm to file a writ of mandamus challenging the courts jurisdiction to invoke chins case against me. I also forwarded evidence to a u.s. senator who contacted hhs to push an investigation faster. Once the lawsuit is filed local news stations will be running coverage on the situation. Easy day....people will be losing their jobs soon...and judge pancol...who has attempted to cover up what has happened will also be in trouble. The drug testing is a kids for cash and federal funding situation.