Applying for a patent to protect an invention from duplication by others is an important part of the overall process of bringing a new product to the market. To qualify for a patent, the innovation must be a product, process, or device that people can use in a manner that is productive and practical. Decorative designs are not eligible for a patent, nor are theories or new discoveries. An inventor applying for a patent must also show proof that the innovation is new and unique. The public cannot know anything about the invention yet. It also cannot be a minor change to something that already exists.
Inventors should also keep in mind that they forfeit the right to apply for a patent once the item reaches the public domain. Therefore, it is extremely important not to release details about the invention prior to receiving a patent. Inventors should ask anyone involved in bringing the product to market to sign a legally binding confidentiality agreement to protect their financial interests and legal standing. The risk of continuing to work on the project without applying for a patent is that someone else may come up with the same or very similar idea and get it to the marketplace first.
Why a Patent Search is Necessary
Early in the process, inventors should conduct a worldwide patent search to find out if their idea is viable and has a good chance of receiving approval for a patent from the Intellectual Property Office of their home country. After applying for the patent, this organization will provide the prospective inventor with a list of similar items that have already received patent approval.
Since millions of patents already exist in the world, there is a good chance the innovation is similar enough to others and therefore not unique enough to receive a patent of its own. This gives the inventor the opportunity to adjust the project before investing additional time and resources into something that may not be patentable.
How to Start a Patent Search
Inventors can search for an existing patent of their innovation by looking through a trade magazine, completing an online search, using a free online patent database, or hiring a professional experienced in preparing, searching, and filing patents. Those who are new to the process may wish to attend a patent searching clinic. Additionally, Patent Information Libraries are available in numerous locations throughout developed countries. If the patent search does not return anything in the inventor’s home country, he or she still needs to conduct a worldwide search to ensure that his or her idea is unique.
The time from the initial patent search to the granting of the patent can be as long as 30 months. This includes a wait time of approximately 12 months from when the inventor requested a search to when he or she receives the results of the search report. Considering the time and expenses involved, it’s essential to complete the application correctly. Paying for assistance is a good investment when compared to additional delays or an outright rejection.
What are your thoughts on filing a patent?