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Protecting a patent: not always a smooth ride

Preparing and filing an application for a patent is a vital step in protecting a business’s intellectual property. In many cases, a properly prepared application is approved with few or no setbacks. However, issues can and do arise.

For instance, even if the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) initially approves a patent, challenges can trigger a review, which could invalidate it.

Infringement becomes invalidation

A recent case between exercise equipment companies Echelon and Peloton can serve as an example of what can happen when someone successfully challenges a patent.

Sources report that Peloton initially filed a claim against Echelon, asserting that they had infringed on two patents Peloton held for streaming, on-demand fitness classes. In response to the infringement claims, Echelon countersued Peloton and challenged the validity of the patents in question.

Echelon maintained that the patents were obvious based on previous technology, and therefore, not patentable. The USPTO agreed to review the patents and ultimately sided with Echelon.

Protecting a patent after the fact

Despite the ruling, Peloton filed additional patent applications and sued Echelon for infringing on those patents.

There are a couple of takeaways from this case that highlight how critical it is to take an ongoing approach to protecting intellectual property.

First, it shows us that while patents provide crucial protection for IP, they are not immune to attempts to invalidate them or infringe on them.

It also illustrates the importance of responding quickly to IP disputes. When a patent, copyright or trademark comes under fire, companies would be wise to strategize to find ways to counter challenges or reinforce their IP. These measures can help businesses adapt to the obstacles that can arise with their IP.


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