Patents are an important way for inventors to protect their ideas and receive compensation for their inventions. If you have a novel idea or invented a new product that you intend to profit from, getting a patent is certainly a good step to take. However, applying for a patent is risky. Filing for a patent can cost a lot of money and take a lot of time and effort, and there are no guarantees of success. Before you get started, it’s a good idea to be informed. This post contains some helpful information in making a decision on when should you get a patent.
When Should You Get a Patent
If granted, a patent gives the inventor the right to exclude anyone else from using or selling that invention. This right reduces competition and allows the inventor to sell, license, or otherwise make money from their patented intellectual property or products.
If you have a novel idea or you invented a new product, getting a patent is certainly a good step to take. But you never know for sure whether or not your patent will be granted. Sometimes it may not be worth all the hassle, time, and money to go after a patent.
Did you really invent something?
You should only think about getting a patent if you actually have an invention that you wish to bring to market or profit from in some way. And it can’t just be an idea – you will need some type of prototype or model to show that you actually invented the thing.
Is your invention new and different than anything already in existence?
Not only do you actually have to invent something, it has to be something significantly new and different. You will not be granted a patent unless your invention is “non-obvious,” meaning that a person with expertise in that particular field would not have easily thought of the same invention.
What are your goals and why do you want to get a patent?
If you want to take a new product to market and the product itself is a “non-obvious” invention, a patent is probably the best way to go. If you created a new process or method of doing something, or you produced a new material or a plant, and you’d like to license the use of your invention to another company, once again a patent is the way to go.
However, if you’re simply looking to protect an idea, your software, or a secret formula or process from your competitors, a patent might not be the best option. There are other types of intellectual property protection that might actually have more benefits than a patent, depending on the circumstances.
Other Options for IP Protection
Trademarks, trade secrets, and copyrights are other forms of intellectual property that can legally protect a creator’s creation. Each form of IP has its own rules, benefits, and limitations. Here is a helpful intellectual property guide to get you started with the basics of IP protection.
Sometimes it’s wise to forego patents in favor of these other IP forms, and even the most successful companies have done so. For example, Coca Cola’s recipe is protected by trade secret, not by a patent. The reason for this is that a patent only lasts for 20 years and it requires you to disclose exactly how the invention works. So the recipe for Coca Cola is actually more protected against competition by keeping it a trade secret. Similarly, a lot of software is copyrighted instead of patented because getting a patent would require disclosure of the exact code and it would only last 20 years, whereas a copyright lasts much longer.
So, first things first, you need to be certain that you indeed want a patent, and not a trademark, trade secret, copyright or other form of intellectual property protection.
Before you begin the patent process, you need to be sure your idea is valuable enough and worth spending the time and money required to get a patent. It’s possible that you would be better off with another form of IP protection, and even a lot of really good ideas do not meet the criteria for getting a patent.
Before you decide when should you get a patent, here are a few questions to ask yourself to decide if a patent is right for you.
- Do you have an invention? Or just an idea?
- What did you invent? Is it a product, process, design, or plant? Or something else?
- Do you have a prototype or working model yet?
- What are your goals? Starting a company to sell a product? Licensing the technology to another company? Protecting your information from competitors? Something else?
- Have you considered other options for protecting your IP?
- Answer some questions
- Receive price quotes
- Find your lawyer