When you have a great idea, you need to do everything you can to protect it. We’ve all heard the story of poor old Joe Blogs, who thought of the next big invention, only for somebody to steal it from underneath his very nose.
The most common reason for idea theft is not having a patent. A patent protects an individual from having their invention or idea copied and monetized, without them receiving the appropriate compensation for it.
Many businesses or individuals make a fatal mistake when it comes to patents: they delay in getting one. Their plan may still have some kinks in it, or their invention may not be shop ready yet. Whatever the reason, the delay can have devastating financial consequences.
Think provisional patent
A provisional patent is a prequel to an actual patent. It protects prototypes and intellectual property before a real patent is filed. It allows somebody the chance to develop their product idea further, before attempting to get a full one a year later. In this time, the viability of an idea or invention can be established, as can commercial potential.
While it isn’t quite full protection, a provisional patent does offer a strong deterrent against theft. The legal filing number can be placed on any document, prototype or advertisement, deterring anybody looking for a quick buck from stealing your idea. In the case of duplicate inventions, the earliest patent filed wins out.
What to consider before filing one
Less than half of all patent applications end up being granted. Not every idea or invention is patentable. Issues regarding ownership need to be considered, as does who gets credit. If somebody else has perfected what was only a rough idea, they, not you are entitled to file for one. The same applies if you’ve improved upon an original idea. The lines in this case are a little more blurred, so more investigation is required to ensure qualification.
The issue of profitability also needs to be considered. Is there a demand for what you’re trying to patent? Under 5% of everything granted protection will ever make a profit. After the expense of developing a product further, filing multiple patents and advertising and producing it; will your invention make money? If not, it’s very likely that going down the patent route will be a fruitless way to your spend time.
Taking care of the details
If you’ve decided your invention is patentable and you’d like to move forwards, great.
Now you need to decide which of these three categories your invention fits in to: utility, design, or plant. It’s also vital that it meets these three prerequisites too: novelty, non-obviousness, and utility.
Upon deciding, you’re very close to being able to file your year long protection order.
Before getting legal advice, with the intention of crossing the ‘t’s’ and dotting the ‘i’s’, perform a patent search, just to ensure that nobody has been beaten you to it. There are over 100,000 patents granted each year, so finding a unique invention isn’t easy. Hopefully what you have is however, and your patent will be successful.
You can check previously registered patents by browsing the USPTO patent search database. Entering your invention description will allow you to view a full list of text and images alerting you to previously registered inventions.
If your idea is profitable, if your invention is your own, and if nothing similar comes up on the search database, then congratulations, you’re good to proceed.
It’s now recommended you visit a patent law attorney, just to help the process run as smoothly as possible. You’ll need to create a detailed description and offer drawings to demonstrate how your invention works, so be prepared for that. You’ll also need to pay all appropriate fees. A good patent attorney will be able to help you with all of those things, making getting your grant effortless.
The day you find out that you’ve been awarded your patent will be a monumental day you’ll remember forever. While it may sound slightly complicated at times, it’s something you’ll always be glad that you did.