We waved  goodbye recently to a prospect with a really great invention.  Not only was it a great invention, but he’d hired top quality patent lawyers, filed it in half the globe and… maintained it for ten years.

Heaven know what all this had cost him.  North of £100k he said and, as he explained in notably flat tones, his wife was none too pleased.

So what went wrong?  Is this bad luck, just more evidence that the odds are stacked against the little guy?  Well, there’s truth in both of those but the failure is more subtle.  He had simply never understood what a patent actually was.

A patent is a rented monopoly.  And anything you rent is a liability.  Anything you rent out is an asset.  He had the rental all sewn up but no plan for renting it out.   It’s like renting a factory and then wondering why nobody is sending you cheques.

Obviously this is hard to swallow, £100k down, which was part and parcel of why we waved goodbye to each other, but he was far from alone in his error.  Which suggests it’s less obvious than it appears.

Painfully often, a patent becomes a liability.  Proudly awarded the right to rent his monopoly, the patent holder lacks the means to rent it out profitably.  As usual, the answer lies in teaming up with  someone who has what you lack but lacks what you have.  Only together do you have an asset.

And our £100k man? It would be easy to call him greedy, but who shares a £100k asset?  Thinking that was what it was, he held on to the whole liability.