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A Consumer Product Company’s Costly Patent Lesson: It’s Not Enough to Protect the Invention, the Innovation Must Also be Patented

A SVP at a large consumer products company recently expressed frustration that he cannot bring a patent infringement lawsuit even when his company holds 18 US patents (and many other foreign patents) on a product that closely resembles a competitor's product. His annoyance is compounded because his company spent several years developing the product and technology covered by the patents. His company also spent several $MM introducing the product, which turned out to be a failure. The company removed the product from the market after several months, but the many patents remain in the portfolio today, and are still being maintained at considerable expense. I estimate that the patent protection for this failed product cost as much as $500K for patent coverage worldwide. Significantly, the product did not fail due to quality or performance issues. Rather, it failed because it was over-engineered and used many expensive ingredients, a fact which made