If you were willing to bet a dollar that nobody would say “patent law” when asked to name something exciting, you’d likely go home a dollar richer.
Patents do, however, play a critical role in Israel’s innovation-forward start-up industry. In fact, patents have played an even more critical role in recent years. A consistent rise in patent activity has continued since the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, as illustrated in a recent report from the Israel Patent Office.
For many, the world of patent law can be daunting and nearly incomprehensible, which is where experts like Daniel Kligler come in.
The senior partner of patent drafting office Kligler & Associates has more than 27 years of experience in the field of patent law. In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, he offered some words of advice to entrepreneurs hoping to make a legal claim on their ideas.
“The message that I try to give to start-up companies who come to me is that the cheap way may turn out to be the expensive way in the end,” Kligler said. “On the other hand, spending more money on doing the patent application properly will increase the [company’s] valuation, and increase the chances that they’ll get a good patent in the long run.”
How do you know if a patent application is “good” or not?
“It takes about a year and a half or two years for a patent application to be examined [by the patent office] once it’s been filed, and if your patent application isn’t [written well], the examiner will say ‘Well, this doesn’t seem new, and this isn’t clear, and therefore I reject your application.’ If it’s written badly, you may find that you have no fallback and the patent goes down the drain.
“This is why I try to persuade start-up companies to spend the money and do it right. It’s like anything else: You can build a cheap foundation and hope it’ll hold up, or you can build a good foundation and it’ll have a better chance of standing.”
Just how critical is patent law to the current start-up ecosystem in Israel?
“The short answer is: critical. Just imagine that you’re a start-up company, and you’ve invented some great new product that addresses market needs in a better way than other people, and then you go out to market and the big players see your product, and they think, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s a good idea. Let’s just copy them.’
“That’s the Microsoft strategy. For example, they see some small successful company they can copy and kick them out of the market. It’s a legitimate strategy. A patent is the way to avoid that.
“If you’ve got a patent, it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be able to keep Microsoft or Amazon from trampling you and putting you out of the market, but it means that there’s a risk for them. They see that if they try to play that way, you may sue them, and there have been some disastrous losses to big companies [in those situations], so instead of offering you $10 million for your company, take it or leave it, they’ll offer you a lot more.”
What are the highlights of working in the patent field? As a veteran, how frequently do you see a patent application and ask yourself “Wow, why didn't I think of that?”
“All the time, actually. That’s a great thing about this job; people come with these amazing ideas. Our firm’s focus is on deep tech and really complex technologies, and it’s really fun to learn from the most creative people in the most advanced technical fields.
“To this day, I’m still surprised that people pay me to do this. How often do you get the smartest person out there to teach you about his invention, and explain why it’s different?
“Not often, but occasionally, we’ll write applications for things that I’m sure won’t turn into actual products. And another great thing about my job is that – though sometimes I’m right – sometimes the client surprises, and [we get to see] these young guys with crazy ideas actually make a lot of money. It’s fun. It’s never boring, surprisingly.”