Filing a patent can be one of the most important aspects of your journey to the marketplace with your invention. As such, I think it’s a good idea to go over some of the basic terms associated with filing a patent on your intellectual property so that you better understand the options.
What is intellectual property? The Oxford Dictionary defines it as: “a work or invention that is the result of creativity, such as a manuscript or a design, to which one has rights and for which one may apply for a patent, copyright, trademark, etc.”
So when we talk about filing a patent, the patent covers your intellectual property, or your idea, and makes it legally “yours”.
When it comes to types of patents, there are three types we are concerned with. There is a fourth, a plant patent, but that’s not really my area, so if you are looking for help on plant patents, this probably is not the best arena to get that. For everyone else, you need to know about Provisional Patents, Utility (Non-provisional) Patents, and Design Patents.
Here is some additional information direct from the USPTO website.
A provisional patent application allows you to file without a formal patent claim, oath or declaration, or any information disclosure (prior art) statement. Utility patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or compositions of matters, or any new useful improvement thereof. Design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture.
So which ones the best for you? Well it depends. A provisional patent can be a great option when you are budgeting and/or don’t have all the details you need to complete the utility. It effectively protects your filing date while giving you some wiggle room to gather more information or complete any remaining work required for a utility patent. You have one year from the date of your provisional patent filing to file you full utility patent.
Provisional patents are really only compatible with the utility patent, not with design patents. So do you really need a patent to get to market? Legally, no. You can go to market without one. And in some cases, that might be a good business decision.
But if you are going to file, the best first step is to have a comprehensive patent search completed because those results tell you if you CAN file. The next discussion you need to have is if you SHOULD file. You will need to address the can and should with a logical approach and keep your emotions separate. This is a business decision.
Whether or not you should file can vary depending on the industry you are in. For example, if you have a software you are thinking of filing a patent on, the software industry is a very fluid one and often times by the time you get a patent through the filing process, the ever changing technology may make yours obsolete. Whereas something like a hammer, that technology probably won’t change any time soon, so filing a patent on a design change to that would be beneficial.
As a licensing agent I can tell you that any company looking to license your product will NOT pursue a deal if you don’t have a patent filed. They won’t be willing to invest their money or take on any risk without knowing they have the ability to protect their investment. Period. So your end goal needs to be a part of the discussion. If you do plan on pursuing licensing, it’s best to make your patent attorney aware of that direction from the get go.
A good definition of licensing is that someone is “renting the right to use your intellectual property.”
I mentioned earlier that filing might not be in your best interest. An example of such a scenario is if you are making/selling something as a hobby at local fairs/craft shows/farmers’ markets and you don’t care if someone see your ideas and copies it, then filing would be a waste of time and over kill.
But if you want to be able to negotiate and control you idea, and have the grounds to fight back if someone copies your idea, you have to protect your intellectual property and only a patent can give you that option.
You may think a trademark is comparable to a patent, but it isn’t. I’m going to do a video on trademarks as they serve a specific purpose and do have value, but they are not a legally binding contract that protects your idea.
Understanding the nuances of intellectual property and a patent that protects it is a critical part of getting an idea to market. If licensing is your end goal, the patent is a must. You can figure that a quality patent application will run you around $15,000 to have completed by a registered patent attorney. Don’t do this step yourself to save money and file pro se. That’s another red flag to potential licensors and they won’t want to go there.
So you can see why having that discussion with yourself about if you can file, if you should file, and knowing your end game goal can make such a difference.
For more information on intellectual property, patent filing, and avoiding potentially costly mistakes, please attend one of the virtual meetings we host on a monthly basis! The details and links for those meetings can be found on the Inventor Lady website, www.inventorlady.com
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