Like many other people, you’ve probably seen an infomercial and thought, “Why didn’t I think of that?” or maybe you have an idea right now that you think might be feasible. The problem is you may not know how to take that next step, who to call or how to start the patent application process. Before you share your great idea with anyone, you should invest in an hour meeting with a patent lawyer.
This first discussion will help you overcome your fear of telling others about your idea. Many people with great ideas stop because they’re unsure of who they can and should tell about their idea. Some are afraid of getting their idea stolen; others just aren’t sure where to turn. By taking a little time and money to meet with a patent attorney, you’re taking the first step in protecting your idea.
Next decide if your idea is viable. Pursuing a patent and creating a new product is a considerable investment of both time and money. To ensure that your investment is a good one, analyze your idea and the marketplace before applying for a patent, because the patent process is also time consuming.
Having a viable product or idea will make your journey through new product development, the patent process, marketing and sales simpler. Ask yourself a few key questions: Who would be the consumers for this product? What industries are those consumers members of?
A viable idea is also an idea that is conceivable to produce. Take into consideration the possible tools, materials and machinery that might be required to produce the product. Nothing is impossible but sometimes after careful deliberation, you might find that another material or strategy is more cost and time efficient in pursuing your product.
Once you’ve concluded that your idea is viable to create, produce, market and sell, it’s time to start the patent application process. A granted patent gives the patent holder exclusive rights for a period of time to pursue the patented idea. In theory, holding a patent does not give the holder the right to pursue or use the idea or invention but actually excludes others from using the same idea.
A HARD CASE
In most cases a patent must meet certain requirements. Generally, these requirements include proof that the patent is new, innovative, and useful. Because the patent application process is so complex, the best way to apply for a patent is by using a lawyer who has experience with patents.
While choosing a lawyer should be based on your own research, once you have picked one make sure you are getting the most for your money. Your lawyer should be responsible for writing the patent, doing patent research and letting you know if your invention is patentable. A quality lawyer committed to helping you succeed will provide you with more information on other patents like yours and how to best protect your ideas.
When you meet with a lawyer and discuss your idea, this person will begin all the necessary research and paperwork to pursue your patents. This could involve revisions to your patent to better cover your invention, or clarifications regarding the product. Most patent law is common sense but your lawyer will help you decipher differences between your idea and similar patents.
Within the patent application is a claims section that defines the scope of protection your idea is allowed. In most instances, there should be at least one distinct difference between your patent and existing ones. The patent application further outlines details about the background of the invention, an outline, a detailed description, and drawings of the invention. The differences can include other specifics to aid in the defense of your patent should it ever be violated. Specifics can include but are not limited to materials used, construction of the product or application of the product.
THE REAL AND ABSTRACT
In addition you will also be required to submit an abstract summary of your idea and title. After your patent application is filed, it cannot be modified so it is important to take your time and complete the application correctly. Once granted, you have the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, offering for sale or importing into the U.S. the invention specifically outlined in your claims. This prevents others from pursuing production or sales of the product. You as the patent holder now have the right to sell, license or transfer your patent at your discretion.
Now that your patent application is approved, you can then pursue the manufacturing, testing and marketing process. Holding the patent excludes others from pursuing the same idea or product as outlined in your application. At this time, you should feel comfortable sharing your idea with potential investors, manufacturers and others you trust in the industry.
With your patent in place, you are required to act on your patent within a certain period of time, as your patent is protected for up to 20 years. After that time someone else can pursue your idea or something similar. Begin by building and testing a prototype of your product, making adjustments to enhance your product’s function and delivery. You need to develop your product and prototype as far as possible, working out any possible problems along the way, before manufacturers, retailers or major companies will be willing to review it. You might also want to consider registering a trademark for possible names for your product.
By pursuing the patent process diligently, you ensure that your product is protected while you work on research and development, manufacturing and distributing. A viable product idea is always the first step toward seeing your product in the hands of workers in the field and on the shelves of your local distributor or retailer. W&C