As a patent lawyer, I get asked this question a lot. And I mean – a lot! Friends and family often like to ask me about my job. I understand a patent lawyer’s job is probably not as well known or even common as that of perhaps, a divorce lawyer or a conveyancer. I have been so busy with so many things lately (being a working mom can be so hard!) but I still decided to write out this post anyway. Well, I believe in the empowering motto of ‘she believed she could so she did’! I saw it in Baby Center. Anyway, here’s my answer to when you should apply for a patent.
I shared an infographic the other day if you’d like to read that here.
When Do You Actually Need A Patent?
When It’s Feasible
While it’s important to file a patent for groundbreaking ideas, you wouldn’t want to file for a patent unless you’re sure that fleshing out your idea is feasible. Any earlier than that and you are in danger of paying a high cost (say $25,000 or more) for an undercooked idea that may not even fly, so to speak.
Also take into consideration the commercial viability of your idea. Is there a potential target market? How successful would your invention be? Will people be willing to buy it? It may be brand new and cutting edge, but if it’s not going to do well in the market, then patenting it may be for naught.
First and foremost, you must document the date of your idea’s conception through filing a disclosure document with the according patent and trademark office. After which you must invest in a feasibility study to determine how feasible and marketable your idea is.
When You Avoid Fraudulent Firms
There are a number of firms that would offer to help you out with your patent filing, but not all of them will have the best intention. The industry has its own fair share of scammers that would only take advantage of easily swayed inventors.
One way you can tell is when they sing nothing but praises for your idea. After all, no idea is perfect at this stage in the patenting process. You must be careful and willing to humble yourself in order to take a holistic critique of your idea, with all the points both good and bad. At this stage in your invention process, it’s also good to know what are the possible kinks that you need to address in your prototype.
At the end of the day, it would greatly benefit you if you steer clear of fraudulent firms and listen to those who would give you the cold hard truth. You and your invention would be better off with these kind of firms.
When The Time Is Right
As in most things, there is a right time to file your patent. As we’ve already established earlier, it’s best not to do it too early. However, you must also not wait too long because the moment that you publicize your invention or its details, you only have a year left to patent it.
Sometimes, patenting an invention is not even the way to go. If your design cannot easily be copied by others then it’s probably best to just keep its design and formulation as a trade secret. Since technology is so fast-paced and different inventions pop up in the market with each passing day, then a patent may not even matter in the grander scheme of things. Because you will be putting in a lot of costs for a patent, it’s best to know whether filing for a patent will be beneficial in the long run.
Hope that answers the question if you’re wondering when you should get a patent or when you actually require one.