[Nothing in this article is or should be construed as the giving of legal advice and/or the practice of the law.]
Back in 1999, the book Rembrandts in the Attic was one contributor to increasing awareness that Intellectual Property considerations should be an important part of most company's business strategies. IP generally refers to patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets, but Rembrandt authors (and numerous others) focused on patents and patent strategies. In addition to promoting a tool for patent analysis, the authors describe how in certain instances companies can create patents that block their competitors, anticipate future technology developments, and create a stronger foundation for defensibility.
For example, a growing patent portfolio is a valuable resource when competitors show up demanding that the company take a license to the competitors patents and pay royalties. A company approached in this manner can counter-sue, offer to cross-license, and usually avoid payment (and collection) of royalties. For large technology-based companies, cross-licensing is a useful strategy that can be practiced with all but their most serious competitors.
But what about small companies? Inventors? Companies with patents pertaining to products they have abandoned? Good topics for the next installment.