How and When Should You Patent an Invention?

How and When Should You Patent an Invention?

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A lot of people have great product ideas that can help solve common problems.  However, nothing will happen if the ideas are not made into reality. A good idea is the first step to coming up with a potentially marketable invention. The next is to have a plan to turn that idea into something that people can actually lay their eyes on and touch. Once you have that solid plan, you can patent your idea to protect your rights.

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Expand your idea. – Research and document all the details of your idea. These include the purpose of your invention, the particular problems it aims to address, how you plan it to work, the materials you will need, and the processes involved to create your product. Coming up with a detailed plan will help you assess if your product will be a viable proposition.

Thus, you also need to consider your target market, the total cost to make the product, attractiveness to investors, and its patentability. By patentability, it means your product must be unique and there are no products similar to yours that have existing patents or pending patent applications with the USPTO. If there is an existing prior art, you must decide if there are ways you can improve your product to make it unique; Otherwise, you may just scrap your entire idea as your patent application may stand no chance of getting approved.

  1. Understand the process of patenting. – If you have determined that you have a good chance of obtaining a patent for your invention, the next step is to file an application for patent. Even without a working prototype, you can already apply for patent – as long as you can present all the details of your plan that can be easily understood by experts in the niche.

Inventions are classified under 3 main patent types.  Your invention must fall under one of these:

  • Utility Patent – Generally speaking, this includes all inventions that promise a particular benefit to society, just like Edison’s light bulb.
  • Design Patent – Your invention belongs to this category if it is intended to improve on an existing patentable invention. To be approved, you must show that your design does not affect any of the original invention’s functions.
  • Plant Patent – This applies to new plant varieties developed primarily via asexual reproduction.
  1. Determine the availability of your invention. – As previously mentioned, your invention must be unique. Thus, a thorough patent search must be done to make sure that there would be no impediments to your patent application. You may opt to do the search on your own, but it may take a lot of your time, not to mention the high possibility that you will miss out on a lot of red flags. Remember, patents were first granted in the1700s, and it would be difficult for an inexperienced inventor to find what needs to be found from the amount of records gathered through centuries.

It is recommended that you let professional patent searchers do the work for you as they know exactly how and where to look.  A patent lawyer or patent agent may also be able to point you in the right direction. The patent professional may also help you prepare and file the documents needed for patent applications.

  1. File your application for patent. – Decide whether you want to apply for a provisional or non-provisional patent. If you haven’t decided whether you really want to patent your idea or not, you can first file for a provisional type of patent. It doesn’t cost as much as a regular patent application, but will give you the same rights. However, the provisional patent is only valid for 12 months, after which you need to file a non-provisional patent application.

This way, you will have a little more time to do additional market research and testing, and to further improve your product. If, within the grace period, you decide that the product is not viable, then you may decide not to pursue your patent application any further and just abandon it until your provisional patent lapses. However, if you have decided that your product has good market potential, then you can go ahead and file an application for a non-provisional patent.

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