Patent it – or wing it?
What have the radio, the telephone and, with no hint of irony, the board game Monopoly got in common? Answer: The inventors were not those who cashed in. The money was made by those who copied and then protected, through patent, the original idea. Frightening thought if you’re an inventive type. Intellectual Property (IP) history is littered with creative losers and switched-on chancers. You can be a creative winner if you protect your ideas when the time is right.
Why might I need a patent?
A patent gives you certain legal rights which serve to protect you and deter rival businesses from using or copying your products or inventions. It matters not whether you are a start-up home-worker, full-time entrepreneur or head of a large manufacturing and design company, protecting your innovation and inventions is now an integral part of modern business life.
Top reasons to patent your invention
- To acquire legal rights of ownership.
- Protect against copying.
- Attract investment.
- Protect the company’s (or your) ability to enter, compete and stay in the market.
- Increase market position by keeping your niche and reducing competition.
- Commercialise your product or design and get licensing fees from others for your concept.
- Improve your professional CV (whether corporate or individual) with a patent portfolio showing technical expertise and invention. Investors and partners will appreciate your savvy commercial approach.
Am I ready for a patent?
Your lawyer will say “yes”. That’s their job – to protect you. Paranoid inventors frightened of losing their concepts to IP thieves will also say “yes”. Who wants to invent the telephone and allow Alexander Graham Bell to monetise it? Potential investors will say “yes” because they want to protect their money more than you. With all these folks saying “yes” you might be persuaded too early to seek a patent.
Commentators who have observed entrepreneurs for may years take a more balanced view. They have seen extraordinary financial wastage in fledgling businesses that can ill afford it, where entrepreneurs have made the mistake of pouring away money on patents and PR. A patent is the most expensive and complex type of IP right. You don’t get a 20-year window to exploit your design from the Patent Office on a whim. Think how you might otherwise protect your design or invention. The message of business gurus is be confident and before you rush towards the Patent Office:
- Make the product and prove the concept.
- Get some sales/order interest.
- Make the competition notice your innovation.
- …then and only then…get that patent!
When the time is right
When you and your IP professional are agreed you are ready to seek a patent, and you have the time and money to engage in the process this, in its most simple terms, is what comes next.
- Make sure the invention is yours and no third party is likely to come out of the ‘woodwork’ later to claim a hand in the design concept – e.g. fellow employee, employer or business partner.
- Do a patent search to assess the design and invention landscape in your niche area, you might find you are not alone, and others are thinking and designing along similar lines.
- Make sure you pass the three-part patent test and your invention is new, useful and would not be obvious to someone knowledgeable in your niche field.
- Prepare a patent application – you may well need legal advice and support at this stage to produce:
- A short abstract of the invention.
- A brief of the general field, background in connection with the invention.
- A summary of the invention.
- A description of the way the invention will be used including drawings.
- The claims, dimensions and limits of the invention.
- File the patent application and comply with any deadlines.
- Pursue and prosecute your application through the patent Office.
- Appeal any adverse decisions that may arise.
- Get the patent.
You can be that creative winner after all.
Opus Underwriting Ltd.