Recently, I had a situation that brought patent law into my world. Specifically, it’s uses, applications, benefits, and advantages in respect to a business. In my search for a patent or trademark lawyer in Edmonton, I ended up doing a lot of research on the topic as a whole. Most business owners don’t understand the importance of patents to their businesses, and the value they can provide.
Many businesses utilize patents for a variety of benefits that they can provide. For one, they can provide a competitive edge. By patenting your idea or innovation, you are able to prevent competitors from directly copying the idea and implementing it in their own products or services. Additionally, you give yourself a legitimate means of legal recourse should someone (a competitor for example) infringe on that patent.
Aside from the competitive edge it creates, patents are enormously valuable assets for any company. Many of the largest tech companies in the world hold large numbers of patents, valued in the billions of dollars to tens of billions of dollars or even more. For some companies like Research in Motion or Yahoo, their patents were possibly more valuable than the rest of their business combined at some point. This is due to a few factors, including poor performance by the company that leads to deflated stock price. It’s also a proactive approach to patenting ideas that led to a large number of valuable patents. However, it doesn’t negate the benefits patents provide. They become extremely valuable assets even when the core business components are failing. Used correctly, they can add massive value to a business.
Filing a patent is not a painless process though. While it is fairly easy for large corporations with massive legal budgets, it’s a much bigger decision for a smaller business that doesn’t have the spare money lying around. Specialized lawyers usually required to get these patents approved can be very expensive, and hours can be very long in order to get patents through. Additionally, costs are very significant in order to maintain the patent.
Of course filing patent is a major decision for most businesses, the best way to make it in an educated manner. My suggestion is to contact a local patent lawyer and schedule a free (or if they do not offer free, one-hour) consultation and get their opinion on the benefits and cons of filing a patent. A respectable patent lawyer will provide you with informed opinions and valuable info.
While there are some truly massive companies that exist today, they don’t truly compare to the behemoths that existed in previous times. The main reason for this is that despite the significantly higher populations that exist today, business conditions will never be as inviting as they were for a select few in the past. True monopolies are rare today, and none exist that are of the size in previous centuries. Royal interests often allowed companies exclusive access to resources that companies must compete for today. Wealth was often much more concentrated in the upper tier of society, and competition from small businesses was almost non-existent. But without further delay, let’s get on to the largest companies that have ever existed in history.
- Dutch East India Company (Year 1637): In 1637, the Dutch East India Company was unimaginably huge. Adjusted to 2012 dollars, it was worth over $7.4 trillion dollars! It has also a very unique claim to fame that helped it achieve this ridiculous level of worth. It was the first publicly traded company in the world, which lead to rampant speculation and what is possibly the biggest buble in history. Like all bubbles, it went on to pop, but that didn’t prevent DEIC from becoming the largest company to ever exist before it did. Amazingly enough, just over 150 years later in 1800 the company would cease operations entirely.
- The Mississippi Company (Year 1720): In 1720, this company was worth the modern equivalent of $6 trillion dollars. In what is one of the most interesting tales in business history, this company experienced a rise and fall that rivals tech companies of the Dot-Com bubble. It was originally founded in 1684 to facilitate trade with the New World. By 1717, the company was struggling mightily. So how did it go from struggling to the second largest company in history in a period of 3 years? It was bought up by a banker John Law who changed its business strategy and acquired vast swaths of land. Ridiculous real estate speculation of the value of the land drove stock prices to twenty times their original price. However, the bubble burst and the company came crashing down. The French government declared their shares worthless and the company declared bankruptcy and ceased operations.
- The South Sea Company (Year 1720): In 1720, this company was valued at $4 trillion dollars in modern currency. Yes, 1720 was a crazy year. The story largely aligns, with rampant speculation causing massive overpricing. However, it has a (slightly) happier ending. While the Mississippi Company relied solely on land valuations for business, The South Sea Company did have a true business. When share prices collapsed back to reality, the company was able to leverage their legitimate trade business to stay afloat. As trade declined, the company moved to government debt management. Eventually, it was dissolved in the mid-19th century over 100 years later.