Protecting an idea with a patent application is an important first step on the road to invention success. When a company enters into an agreement to license your invention and pay you royalties, it is typically the patent rights that they are licensing not the invention idea itself. Therefore, it is important to file a patent application to begin the patent process.
Here are a few tips when it comes to filing a patent application.
- File your patent sooner rather than later
As of 2013, the United States switched from a “First to Invent” to a “First to File” patent system, which means that rather than the Patent Office granting a patent to the first person to invent something, it now goes to the person who files a patent application first. It is now very important for inventors to file for patent protection as soon as possible to secure future rights to the idea.
- Companies license patent rights not inventions
As mentioned above, when a company enters into an agreement to license an invention and pay royalties, they are actually licensing the patent rights, not the invention itself. This is why it’s so important to patent the invention. The patent gives you the exclusive right to make, use and sell your invention, providing you with a competitive advantage or monopoly on your invention for the length of the patent term. If you do not have patent protection, your idea or invention can be replicated and reproduced without your consent, so it’s critical to file a patent application if you want to be the only one profiting from it.
- Provisional patent applications are a more cost effective first step for independent inventors
In 1994 the provisional patent application (PPA) was introduced to U.S. patent law. It provides inventors with the benefit of filing a provisional application to establish a priority filing date for your patent. Essentially, the application provides 12 months of protection so that an inventor can further develop and market their invention prior to filing a non-provisional application. Typically, a PPA can be filed for a much lower cost than a utility application.
- You can get immediate “patent-pending” status.
Since the U.S. Patent Office does not review or approve provisional patent applications, inventors can immediately use the term “patent-pending” once the application has been filed. Also, because provisional patent applications are usually much less complex than non-provisional application, they can be filed more quickly.
- Start with a patent search.
Typically, researching other inventions that have already been patented is a good first step before filing any patent application. This process is called a patent or “prior art” search. A patent search is performed for the purpose of finding the most relevant existing or published U.S. Patents to an invention and is typically conducted in the early stages of the application process. A search can provide excellent information to help an inventor make a decision on whether or not to move forward with an idea. Patent searches are usually focused on determining whether a patent or non-provisional patent application on a similar invention has already been published or issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).