Paper Patents – The Complete Story!

John Cronin, CEO of ipCapital Group



We delve into the inventive realm of paper patents, examining a strategic aspect of intellectual property that fundamentally transforms how concepts are safeguarded and advanced. In contrast to conventional patents, paper patents have become an indispensable instrument for adaptable innovators, facilitating the acquisition of inventions expeditiously since the USPTO’s seminal transition in 1880. These patents demonstrate an exceptional ability to protect innovation without being constrained by the “best mode” stipulation; they exemplify the fundamental qualities of adaptability and strategic anticipation in intellectual property.

This exploration of using paper patents as a specific business tool illustrates how paper patents can not only help your business now but can be skillfully leveraged in the future using the capabilities of artificial intelligence and virtual reality, thereby establishing inventors as leaders in virtualized innovation. This paper extends an invitation to excel in “paper patents,” or as others may call it, “forward patenting,” where inventor, legal, and business thinking converge to shape future innovation trajectories.

We examine the historical origins, strategic advantages, and pragmatic suggestions for optimizing the utilization of paper patents. This paper predicts the ever-changing transformation of paper patents in response to technological advancements, encompassing strategies for optimizing IP portfolios, managing market positioning, and formulating impactful patent applications. Become a participant in this exhaustive examination to learn how paper patents provide safeguards and stimulate innovative pursuits at the forefront of the technological revolution.

Paper patents provide a flexible solution that can be customized to suit the requirements of various stakeholders, including small business owners seeking a competitive advantage. It can also drastically help larger organizations considering the establishment of a “patent factory”[1]and those intrigued by patents at any level. These tools are highly effective and valuable for individuals engaged in various business activities such as fundraising, licensing, patent sales, mergers and acquisitions, and transactions. They offer substantial assistance in navigating the intricate realm of intellectual property. Those interested in understanding the complex correlation between intellectual property strategy and paper patents will find many strategies that shed light on the subject. Inventors, specifically, may discover inspiration and practical guidance in paper patents, which may fundamentally alter their approach to future patent applications and invigorate their innovation endeavors with renewed optimism and understanding.



Background of Paper Patents

The notion of “paper patents,” which is alternatively referred to as “forward patents,” is a subject that has received limited attention in the vast body of intellectual property literature. These distinctive patents distinguish themselves by not necessitating the conventional physical prototype or tangible depiction customarily attached to patent applications. The fundamental value of these entities resides in their capacity to satisfy the enablement criterion imposed by the patent office. This attribute enables paper patents to serve as viable substitutes for forthcoming innovations, exemplifying the forward-thinking methodology known as “forward patenting.”

Except for some specific exemptions, such as chemical formulations and compositions of matter, paper patents cover all patent types and a vast array of patent technology categories. In most cases, these exceptions require empirical evidence to support the assertions in the patent application. An important historical note regarding the first reason for the possibility of paper patents transpiring in 1880 when the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) eliminated the precondition of tangible prototypes or models attached to most patent applications. This pivotal ruling represented a substantial transition towards a more comprehensive and readily available methodology for patent application, thereby expanding the possibilities for pioneers and innovators.

The story of Philo Farnsworth, the individual credited with developing the initial fully operational all-electronic television system, exemplifies the complex legal complexities and turbulent trajectories that characterize the use of paper patents against his groundbreaking patent applications. During the 1930s, Farnsworth and David Sarnoff of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) were embroiled in a contentious legal dispute regarding television technology patents. This historical dispute highlights inventors’ difficulties and successes in safeguarding and asserting their intellectual property rights against corporate behemoths. Sarnoff created numerous paper parents around Farnsworth breakthrough patents, pitting a large company (RCA) with huge dollars and legal clout against a small inventor. Paper patents allowed large companies to arrive late to a market but gain strong IP positions.

The ability to draft paper patents is an exclusive ability possessed by a limited group of individuals, such as patent attorneys, inventors proficient in drafting, and consultants knowledgeable about the intricacies of intellectual property law. Although paper patents representing a single concept are frequently encountered, the rare “strategic assembly of a collection of paper patents” can protect an entire innovation ecosystem. This strategy is an infrequent occurrence. This rarity underscores the necessity for strategic foresight and profundity to navigate the intellectual property landscape effectively.

Despite their intangible nature, paper patents have equivalent value to their conventional counterparts of patents developed that cover physical products. The equal legal and business value of paper patents to patents developed on actual physical products highlights the importance of protecting innovations that range from virtual and conceptual to physical. The strategic utilization of paper patents is exemplified by the IBM patent factory[2], which demonstrates the capacity of these intellectual property instruments to cultivate an atmosphere conducive to abundant innovation.



Benefits of Paper Patents

Paper patents have significantly transformed intellectual property, providing numerous advantages that facilitate the patenting procedure and promote novel ideas. The cost-effectiveness of paper patents is among their most significant benefits. They prevent the necessity of fabricating a tangible product or prototype, along with the corresponding expenditures on research and development, in contrast to conventional patents. Paper patents are an appealing choice for inventors and companies seeking to safeguard their concepts without making substantial investments in the early phases of development due to their financial efficiency.

In addition, paper patents are acknowledged for their rapid processing speed. Rapid protection of ideas is possible due to the lack of necessity for extensive research and development or product development phases. The prompt patent acquisition guarantees that inventors can assert their rights to innovation on time, diminishing the timeframe for rival inventions.

Additionally, paper patents significantly enhance the brainstorming procedure. They function as an exceptional medium for capturing the abundance of ideas produced during brainstorming sessions, facilitating a smooth progression from concept to assertion to facilitation. The ease of use described here starkly contrasts with the more laborious procedure of coordinating a tangible product with patent assertions, providing a more adaptable and practical approach to drafting patents.

An additional benefit is that the “Best Mode” restrictions are absent. The inventor must disclose the optimal method of implementing the invention at the time of filing, which can restrict the flexibility of disclosing internal know-how to get the patent. In contrast, paper patents give inventors a more flexible platform to document their patents. The paper patent creator files what they are thinking about to get claims, but then later, the inventor can figure out the “best modes” for the physical product when the final product is ready.

Paper patents are additionally distinguished by their clarity of inventorship. Delineating the contributions of various inventors is frequently facilitated by processing the patents in question,  ensuring the legal allocation of inventorship. Those who contribute to any patent claims are inventors. This often causes multiple inventors, and getting this correct is arduous, and many times, it is plagued with legal issues down the road. In contrast, paper patents usually have only the writer inventor as the inventor, as it’s very or even a waste of time to have multiple people work on an individual paper patent.

Another notable feature of paper patents is their capacity to enable “workarounds.” Workaround efforts empower inventors to navigate around pre-existing patents and quickly file and own the workarounds through paper patents.

Incorporating paper patents into a comprehensive intellectual property (IP) strategy improves the strategic administration of IP. By addressing the “whitespace” in a company’s patent landscape, paper patents can fill gaps in an IP portfolio and ensure a comprehensive protection strategy encompassing all aspects of innovation. Paper patents filing the white space is a precious IP strategy.

The increasing significance of paper patents has been further enhanced by the emergence of AI tools such as computer-aided design (CAD), artificial intelligence (AI), and large language models (LLMs). Due to AI Tool’s compatibility with digital innovations, using paper patents to own these digital innovations creates an exceptional way to create and own a market space.

Paper patents provide an adaptable and effective means of safeguarding intellectual property. In addition to their strategic advantages in intellectual property management and compatibility with technological advancements, their practicality, economic viability, and adaptability during the patenting process render them an indispensable instrument for organizations and inventors navigating the intricate realm of innovation.


Strategies for  Paper Patents

An array of approaches exists for optimizing the practicality of paper patents in the context of intellectual property (IP) administration. These time-proven strategies we have used below demonstrate how paper patents have numerous uses in a business.

Use as a Product Enhancement Placeholder

Paper patents serve as invaluable placeholders for product enhancements, allowing companies to stake a claim on future improvements and innovations. When the idea is filed as a paper patent and becomes an issue, the paper patents now allow ownership of the idea. So, as one considers a product enhancement, file a paper patent immediately to win it. This strategy is beneficial for maintaining a competitive edge, enabling reserving IP rights for enhancements even before the final details are fully conceptualized.

Create an Instant Portfolio

Leveraging paper patents to create a substantial patent portfolio rapidly is a strategic move with an impressive success rate. We have evidenced an 85% success rate of patent issuances across thousands of cases. This approach bolsters a company’s IP assets and enhances its market position and investment appeal.

Blueprint for Prototypes

Utilizing paper patents as blueprints for prototypes underscores their role in the initial stages of product development. We have found that when the paper patents are written correctly, designers, prototypes, coders, etc., can have clear direction on the following steps to implementation, as paper patents, just like regular patents, need to be enabled. [3]This strategy streamlines the transition from concept to creation, providing a clear path for bringing innovations to life.

[3]  Episode 6 – Enablement for Patents and Intellectual Property

Build Enhancement for Monetization

Paper patents can significantly contribute to the monetization of IP assets. Companies can create additional revenue streams by securing paper patents for potential “monetization developments” in licensing agreements, partnerships, and other monetization strategies. Essentially, taking a base patent portfolio and enhancing it with paper patents in the direction of the monetization strategy adds a lot of leverage to the deal in play.

Creating a Startup

For entrepreneurs and innovators, paper patents are instrumental in the foundational stages of creating a startup. They provide a protective barrier for new ideas and can serve as a critical asset in attracting investment and establishing credibility in the market.

Pre-Confidential Brainstorming

Employing paper patents strategically before key confidential brainstorming sessions can safeguard ideas and innovations from the outset. This preemptive approach ensures that valuable IP is secured before discussions potentially expose them to external risks.

Enhancing Valuation for Investment and M&A

In the financial realm, paper patents can play a crucial role in enhancing the valuation of companies for investment and mergers & acquisitions (M&A). Companies like Pitchbook have quantified the value added to a patent portfolio to raise more money quickly and at higher valuations. This makes a compelling case for investors and potential acquirers.

Pre-Product Locking in Dates

Securing critical pre-product dates with paper patents is a strategic move that protects the innovation timeline. This ensures companies have a documented claim to their innovations, safeguarding them against competitive pressures.

Testing Claims at the Patent Office

Early learning through testing claims at the patent office provides invaluable insights into the viability and protection of IP assets. This strategy allows for adjustments and strengthening of patent applications, increasing their chances of success. Paper patents become the “lunar probe” of how the patent office will react to future patents of your space.

Use Fast Track for Quick Results

The Fast Track process[4] is a strategic tool for swiftly securing IP rights. This approach can accelerate patent granting, providing a competitive advantage in rapidly evolving industries. Fast-tracking with fast paper patent development has shown going from an idea to an issued patent in three or four months is possible!


Lay Open Immediately

Leaving patents open immediately can be a strategic decision because it creates prior art for others. Paper patents are a unique way to own a space and, at the same time, poison the well around it.

File as Provisional First

Filing a provisional paper patent application creates optionality, allowing for adjustments and refinements before submitting the final application. This flexibility is crucial in the fast-paced world of innovation. Provisionals allow a placeholder to patent ownership. Since paper patents are the cheapest filing type, filing provisionals versus patents makes the process very cheap and has vast optionality!

Utilize in Cross-Licensing Negotiations

Paper patents can leverage negotiations, broaden technology access, and foster mutually beneficial agreements. Using paper patents (along with other deal elements) allows ownership that provides a solid negotiation position. Imagine negotiating a deal with ten of fifteen strategically placed paper patents on your side. This strategy can unlock new opportunities and partnerships.

Implement as a Barrier to Entry

Paper patents can act as a barrier to entry for competitors in niche markets, protecting the unique aspects of innovations and maintaining market dominance.

Securing Strategic Partnerships

For any partnership being contemplated, developing paper patents in the partnership area allows you to own and control the strategic partnerships.

Deploy as a Bargaining Chip in Litigation

Paper patents can be a valuable bargaining chip in litigation, facilitating settlements and protecting the company’s interests. When they learn they are being sued via patents, some companies immediately create numerous paper patents on top of the owner of the lawsuit, so there is a counter-setoff to the litigation. Given the speed, low cost, and focus of paper patents used in this way, it allows for ultimate ammunition in litigation. This strategic use underscores the multifaceted value of paper patents in legal contexts.

Leverage for Government Grants or Funding

Developing paper patents for a grant can leverage government grants or funding for R&D, providing a financial boost to innovation efforts and supporting the development of new technologies.

Incorporate in Corporate IP Audits

Incorporating paper patents in corporate IP audits bolsters asset valuation, providing a comprehensive view of a company’s intellectual assets and enhancing its financial and strategic positioning.

Showcase Technological Capabilities

Paper patents showcase a company’s technological capabilities in investor presentations, demonstrating innovation prowess and attracting investment and partnerships.

Foundation for Spinoff Companies

Finally, paper patents can lay the foundation for spinoff companies focused on specific technologies, enabling the exploration of new markets and the commercialization of innovative ideas. The owner of the spinoff has tangible assets for the spinoff owner.


Tips for Writing Paper Patents

This analysis will explore the intricate craft of constructing paper patents, revealing specialized tactics designed to maximize their efficacy and guarantee triumph in court. This investigation commences with the foundational element of conforming to established patent formats, an action that establishes the framework for a patent application that is both systematically organized and legally compliant. By adhering to established templates, inventors can enhance their clarity and accuracy when navigating the intricacies of patent drafting.

A paper patent disclosure should center around a “Russian doll enablement” method. This approach consists of a stratified disclosure of an invention, similar to the construction of Russian nesting dolls, in which more specific embodiments are presented as one delves deeper, encapsulating more general concepts at the outermost levels. Implementing this methodology fortifies the patent’s resilience and positions it strategically to withstand examination and potential legal disputes.

It is impossible to overstate the significance of including multiple embodiments in your patent applications. To substantially enhance the novelty of their patent and increase the probability of successful issuance, inventors may wish to include three to four variations of the invention. The variety of embodiments showcases the adaptability and practicality of the invention in various contexts, which is a significant determinant in its desirability and valuation.

Also, claims are usually written first to know what the ownership will be and how the enablement is built to support the claims. This is the opposite of regular patents with enablement, and then claims are drafted to cover that enablement. The very nature of paper patents allows for an ease and focus for patent drafting that regular patents do not have.

Furthermore, one should add numerous figures or illustrations, mainly when documenting paper patents. This allows for many embodiments and much subject matter to be added later. Regular patents focus on the figures of the product, so regular patents do not have the flexibility that paper patents do.

The strategic utilization of publications that enable the generation of prior art is recognized as a sophisticated approach that situates the inventor’s concepts into the broader context of established innovations. One may significantly enhance a paper patent (which becomes published and prior art). This strategy is used because there is nothing to lose in publishing a lot inside a paper patent. However, over-publishing is not done in regular patents to limit know-how teaching. So paper patents are doubly valuable, owning a space but also poisoning the well around itself through prior art.

Incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) into documenting paper patents allows for the ease of producing reliable data tables and embodiments. Using AI with paper patent drafting, if the AI is not used to invent (so as not to have issues with the patent office requirements), allows for many expansions that would not be strategic in most regular patent drafting.


Future of Paper Patents

With the rapid pace of innovation, there is a heightened need for expedited filing procedures, which may lead to a potential increase in the dependence on paper patents. The practicality and effectiveness of submitting paper patent applications, which do not require extensive prototyping or comprehensive product development, may result in a more significant proportion of these patents being pursued. This transition is expected to optimize the patenting procedure, facilitating quicker and more efficient protection of intellectual property rights for both companies and inventors. As a result, a vibrant atmosphere will be created that ensures concepts are safeguarded on time following their conception.

A specialized subsector will likely emerge in response to the increase in paper patents, which will be concerned with paper patent creation, management, and optimization. This specialized industry would comprise professionals with legal, technical, and strategic knowledge who are well-versed in the intricacies of paper patenting. With the maturation of this sub-industry, one can anticipate the emergence of novel business models that center on providing all-encompassing paper patent services, such as advisory, drafting, and management. These services would equip businesses and inventors with the essential resources and expertise to navigate the ever-changing intellectual property landscape effectively.

Using “Invention on Demand[5]” tools to file paper patents right after signifies a substantial one-two punch in conceptualizing paper patents. AI and machine learning algorithms can further enhance Inventions on Demand and Paper Patents.

Prototyping companies that incorporate paper patent development services into their business models will significantly enhance the value of their business offerings. Using this integration, prototyping firms will not only broaden the range of services accessible to inventors but also strengthen their value proposition by establishing themselves as providers of comprehensive solutions within the product development ecosystem.

The notion of a “Patent Patent” phase within the innovation process signifies a calculated reconceptualization of the conventional stage-gate framework. Companies and inventors progressively resort to paper patents as an initial measure to ascertain their concepts’ viability, commercial prospects, and patent eligibility before investing resources in prototype development. This “paper patent stage” in a stage gate process should guarantee that the most encouraging innovations are owned before the expensive and time-consuming prototyping phase by functioning as a crucial evaluator.

Emerging as a novel market concept, partial paper patents enable inventors to document an in-process paper patent even more cheaply than a paper patent, which allows the inventor even more flexibility (even lower cost) to help leverage the potential of a paper patent right. The potential for this flexibility to significantly transform the patenting strategy is considerable. Partial paper patents allow for more volume and at a cheaper cost per paper patent.

On the horizon is the automation of the patent application process, specifically for paper patents. By reducing manual labor and increasing productivity, cutting-edge software and AI technologies will streamline paper patent drafting. By implementing this automation, the paper patenting process will become more streamlined and adaptable to the rapid rate of technological progress and the growing number of innovations vying for legal safeguards.

The inventorship role of artificial intelligence is emerging as a central topic of discussion in patents. The increasing prevalence of AI-generated inventions poses a challenge to the conventional boundaries of inventorship and ownership, thereby demanding a reassessment of the processes involved in the awarding and administering patents. More and more use of paper patents will worsen matters and may speed up the need to readdress if AI can become an inventor.

In conclusion, the 1880 landmark event that eliminated the need for tangible prototypes laid the foundation for a new era in which paper patents could function seamlessly within virtual and augmented reality (VR/VM) environments. Incorporating VR/VM technologies into the paper patenting procedure may mean that the patent office may require that, and AI executes the paper patent to see if it is operable. By 2040, creating and evaluating paper patents will likely become fully automated. This innovation would not only bring about a paradigm shift in the paper patent examination process but also offer a streamlined and all-encompassing avenue for developing, disseminating, and safeguarding novel technologies.




Alternatively referred to as “forward patents,” paper patents exemplify a contemporary methodology in safeguarding intellectual property by obviating the necessity for tangible prototypes and accommodating an extensive array of patent classifications. Following the transition of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in 1880, as demonstrated by the legal disputes involving Philo Farnsworth, these patents have developed into an essential component of the innovation domain, providing a swift and economical means of safeguarding intellectual property rights. Paper patents facilitate strategic IP development and brainstorming by circumventing conventional limitations such as the “Best Mode” requirement by enabling a direct transition from concept to assertion. Their compatibility with artificial intelligence and virtual reality technologies increases their significance in the digital age.

Utilizing paper patents strategically encompasses two primary domains: augmenting the worth of the product and attaining a competitive edge. These tactics include utilizing paper patents as placeholders for future improvements, constructing robust intellectual property portfolios, serving as prototype blueprints, and assisting with monetization and startup formation. Furthermore, they stress the significance of strategic filing times, using Fast Track options to facilitate rapid market entry, and employing these patents for barriers to entry and cross-licensing to safeguard niche markets. Using paper patents as bargaining chips in legal conflicts and providing IP incentives in exchange for strategic alliances exemplify their multifaceted worth.

Paper patents use the established patent formats and can be enhanced by including multiple embodiments when drafting paper patents to improve novelty and increase the likelihood of issuance. Using the “Russian doll enablement” method and the strategic application and adding detailed drawings in developing robust applications is underscored. Paper patent writing should include many embodiments in the forthcoming market and be enhanced using artificial intelligence for data embodiment creation and paper patent data.

Potential growth in the use of paper patents is anticipated to be propelled by the development of related sub-industries and business models and accelerated filing processes. It is anticipated that developments such as “Invention on Demand” tools and the incorporation of paper patents into the services of prototyping companies will streamline the patent creation procedure. The emergence of AI in patent drafting indicates that by 2040, AI will be used to create paper patents, and the patent office may use AI to see if the paper patent is enabled! This could fundamentally transform the nature of innovation and its ecosystem.