Small Business
Defending your patent
July 3, 2000: 1:56 p.m. ET

Protecting your idea should become top priority as soon as you get the patent
By Jane Applegate
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NEW YORK (CNNfn) - Dear Jane: We have a small business in Texas with a great, patented product. When someone infringes on our patent, how do we protect it? Lawyers charge $200 an hour or more and that rate would cripple the company. How can we protect ourselves if a big company infringes?

If a company big or small infringes on your patented product, you have no choice but to defend it vigorously. The money you'll spend on a good patent attorney will be more than worth it if you can preserve your market share.

You should be constantly scanning the market for infringement, checking your competitors' Web sites, reading their sales materials and shopping for similar products. Monitor domestic and international competitors. Overseas competitors often ignore U.S. patent protection and knock off cheap imitations of popular products.

In fact, the "Topsy-Tail" ponytail maker was a huge hit in the U.S., making investor Tomima Edmark a rich woman until cheap imported copies flooded the market and nearly destroyed her business.

You probably spent thousands of dollars to develop and patent your product, so don't scrimp on keeping it safe from aggressive competitors.

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