Saturday, January 1, 2005

Just When Should You File Your Patent?

Just When Should You File Your Patent?

Timing can be everything.

If you file too early, you may be wasting your time. If you file too late, you could ruin your chances of gaining a patent.

So you've come up with an idea for a great new invention? You've figured out all the details and can make the thing work. You should just file a patent now, right? Well, not quite yet.

To begin with, there are a number of things you can and should do before you ever spend a dime to file a patent. First things first, you need to do some market research. Chances are you want to make money out of this. So it follows, why would you ever want to pursue an invention that no one will buy? Obviously, you don't!

To determine if your invention is marketable, you should check out products similar to yours. Find out how much these similar products sell for. What are their unique features?

Next, estimate the potential marketability of your idea based on how your product differs from the competition. What will it cost to manufacture your invention? How much could you charge for it? Do your invention's unique features open up any other markets?

From your research, estimate the number of potential customers you may have. You don't need to pay anyone to do this for you, especially not a fraudulent invention submission company. Just pull up your sleeves and get to work.

Once you've decided that making money from your invention is a possibility, you need to convince yourself that it really is new. Obviously, you don't want to pursue your idea if it's already been invented. You can't get a patent on an old idea. Therefore, if your idea isn't new, you don't want to spend the time or money to file a patent. You can determine if your idea is new by performing a preliminary patent search. Check the USPTO's website for existing patents to start with.

If after your search, nothing comes up, consider delving into things a little further. You may want to hire a professional patent searcher before you begin the process for filing a patent. A professional will scan everything that could potentially get in the way of your patent. Unbeknownst to many uneducated inventors, even if your idea was never patented before, it may not be a new invention.

If your idea was ever written about before, you will not be eligible for your patent. See our Inventor’s Patent Workshop for the specific details on what may bar a patent from being granted. You may be surprised, an uneducated inventor can mess this part up all on their own!

Only after you have a professional patent search performed, or you spend some quality time delving into the literature yourself, and have wholeheartedly convinced yourself that your invention really is new, should you begin the process of filing a patent.

Be forewarned, diligence with every step is crucial, especially if you develop a hot product in a competitive field. Taking year long or even month long breaks between every step of this process is not a good idea. You risk losing the race.

To summarize, here are the basic factors you need to address before you ever file a patent:

  1. Your invention works. You need all the details of your invention in order to file a patent. General, vague ideas just aren't enough.
  2. Check its marketability. Don't pursue an invention that no one will buy or that you can't make a profit on.
  3. Determine that it is new. If you file a patent without performing a thorough patent search first, you risk wasting time and money.

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