So, you are an inventor that has created a brilliant new invention that you know will fly off store shelves.
In 2012, the United States Patent and Trademark Office reported that 1.5 million patent applications were pending, compared with around 269,000 in 1992. And the office issued around 270,000 patents in 2012, about 160,000 more than two decades before.
Deciding how to protect and bring your revolutionary new invention to market is a challenge.
Below are some basics steps that I use to guide me down the right road.
1. Can your invention be protected with a patent?
Before moving forward I would check to see if your invention qualifies for a legitimate patent. The first step in patenting is to find out if your invention qualifies for a patent. This is done by completing a patent search. You can do this yourself on the Internet, but I don’t recommend it. I have done six patent searches myself, including three at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office in Washington, DC, and have come to understand that searching is best done by the professional who does it full time. The professionals almost always find critical patents that we amateurs will miss when we do our own searches.
A professional searcher will review the patent files, and make copies of patents that cover inventions similar to yours. To determine how the discovered patents affect your invention, and whether or not you can probably even get a patent, you should have a patentability opinion. Your patentability opinion should be in writing, and should be prepared by a patent attorney or patent agent. See more on this in my article,
2. File for a provisional patent?
As of march 2013 it is no longer who invents, it is who files the patent first.
A provisional patent is a low cost way to begin the patent process by offering you a starting date for patent protection for one year.
If you intend to license your invention to a manufacturer or sell it outright most people and especially companies will NOT pay you merely for an idea for a product. Corporations consider that all inventions are in the public domain until you prove otherwise by receiving a patent.
3. Is your invention marketable?
Other than psychic value, there is no value to an invention that will not succeed in the market. Thus, the first step is always to determine your invention’s marketability. There are several ways to assess marketability:
•Ask friends and relatives what they think.
•Get a formal evaluation from a university.
•Talk to chain store buyers.
•Have a market study made by a legitimate marketing expert.
4. Make a prototype of the invention.
When you create the prototype before you apply for a patent, you may discover patentable features that you missed when your invention was only a sketch or drawing. A prototype almost always help you to pin down the details of your invention, and such details help in the patenting process.
5. Apply for a full utility patent or design patent for your invention.
This is generally the big step for inventors. If you have filed a provisional patent, as mentioned above, A full patent isn’t cheap, but there are a couple of things you can do to reduce its cost. Also, there are three conditions under which you may not want to apply for a patent: 1) the patentability opinion states that you probably won’t be able to get a meaningful (strong) patent; 2) the cost of the patent is too high in relation to the probable income you can make from the invention; 3) the market is small enough that competition is unlikely, and therefore your best bet is to use the money for tasks other than patenting.
6. Marketing or licensing or produce your invention?
By marketing I mean one of two possible approaches: License (or sell outright) the rights to your patent, or produce it and take it to market. For details on licensing or outright sale see my post article, “What is Product Licensing or Invention Licensing”
For producing your invention yourself you should consider whether or not you are entrepreneurial. If you are the kind of inventor who comes up with many ideas and inventions, you may be too much the creative type to be successful as an entrepreneur. But if you are the kind of person who is organized, focused, goal oriented, and gets things done, producing may be the better path for you for providing you have the capital.
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