“If we’d filed that patent, we’d be billionaires today!” A common refrain from many entrepreneurs who are doing well today, but might have done even better if only they had protected their intellectual property.

You might have the most brilliant idea, but chances are, someone else in another part of the world is developing something similar. In this fast-moving, intensely competitive world, your safest bet is to protect your idea early on. Patents play an important role in this because they prevent other companies from using your idea to develop competitive products.

Few were as adept at protecting ideas as co-founder and former CEO of Apple Inc.,  Steve Jobs. In this IP Osgoode blog, writer Philip Goldbach explains that Jobs had his name on a total of 313 patents (with another 29 in the works). “To put this into perspective, ” he writes, “Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, has his name on a mere 9 patents, while Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin appear on just over a dozen.”

If Jobs hadn’t been so protective, the Apple product line, brand and experience would probably be very different today.

But patents have other benefits too, like revenue generation. If another company wants to use your patented technology, it will have to buy or license it from you. To learn more about IP strategies, read through these helpful Entrepreneur’s Toolkit articles. And if you think your idea is patentable or you’re not so sure, come to our event “How to Draft a Patent.” You’ll get to work with patent agents and lawyers, and actually draft a patent!

How to Draft a Patent

Of course, there’s another side of the story (there always is). Some say patents reduce overall innovation and social welfare. They argue that when companies are less protectionist, and when they welcome competition and allow imitation, it fosters innovation and the economy grows.

I leave it up to you to decide what’s best for your idea. But I’d like to point out that the patent process consumes time and money, and entrepreneurs need to assess certain factors before deciding if their innovation merits a patent. advisors and remember, whether you’re starting a business or running one, don’t get into legal hassles due to lack of knowledge. Do your research, be aware of other IPs close to your own, understand the legalities, and save time and money. FYI, our Entrepreneur’s Toolkit also has resources to help you avoid litigation.

Vijender Trivedi

Vijender is the Manager of Online Content at MaRS. He helps entrepreneurs get the online resources they need to grow their companies by project managing and marketing the Entrepreneur’s Toolkit. See more…