How Soon Should You Patent Your New Idea?

There’s a lot to think about when you come up with a good idea. Exactly how will it work? What problem does it solve? Who will be interested in my idea? What’s my next step to show my idea? But honestly, one of the first things you should consider is patent protection of your idea.

This wasn’t the case a few years ago when inventors could take more time working through the invention process before worrying about filing for patent protection. At that time the United States operated under the “First to Invent” patent system.

However, in March 2013, the United States switched from a “First to Invent” to a “First to File” patent system. This meant that rather than the Patent Office granting a patent to the first person to invent something, it now goes to the person who files the patent application first. As a result, you should consider filing for patent protection as soon as possible to secure future rights to the idea, because you don’t know who else may come up with the same concept while you are working on yours.

The First-to-File law applies to all patent applications filed on or after March 16, 2013. It creates a sense of urgency for inventors to file their patent applications quickly before another inventor beats them to it. Prior to this change the United States was the only country in the world who operated with the “First to Invent” patent system, acknowledging as the official inventor, the person who came up with the invention first, as opposed to the person who filed the patent application first. With this March 2013 change, the United States moved to the “First to File” system which is used by the rest of the world. This means that the invention belongs to the first person to file a patent application for an idea, regardless of whether or not someone else created the invention first.

Fortunately, the United States also offers inventors an easy and inexpensive way of providing temporary protection for an invention while they develop and market their ideas. This is called the Provisional Patent Application and this application can get your idea on file with USPTO quickly and without investing a lot of money. The filing date on a Provisional Patent will establish the “First to File” date for the Non-provisional Patent that the inventor will later file.