If you are new to product development, you may think that getting a patent is THE place to start. When you file your patent application and what you file is unique to you, your product and circumstance and is between you and your patent attorney.
I am not an attorney, so this advice is not legal but from the perspective of a product designer and fellow patent holder.
The question is:
When you and your attorney decide you should file, will you be ready?
Here are a few of the reasons why you may NOT be ready to file….
1. You have an great idea……but it is not an actual product yet.
Ideas are not patentable. Inventions must be ‘reduced to practice’ to be patentable. Translated that means that your idea must be developed into a product with design sufficient to describe how it is built to do the ‘non-obvious’ things that you are trying to protect with the patent.
2. You have the product detail together, but do not yet have a plan to finance it or know how you will get it to your customers.
This concern is a matter of timing. Realize that whether you file a provisional or non-provisional patent application, the clock starts ticking.
After 18 months, most patent applications become public and anyone can see the details of your filing. There are times when this is the last thing you want and postponing the filing may have been a better choice.
Again, you should consult an attorney to review and provide advice for your specific situation…just be aware and ask the right questions to be sure you are doing what is best for you.
3. The product you want to develop is not really patentable.
Some ideas make good products but may not be ‘protect-able’. This would be the case if the product had already been patented, but that patent had expired or if the product would be considered ‘obvious’ by patent reviewers.
Not to worry….look around and you see products everywhere that have no patent protection, yet are in the marketplace making a profit.
If you decide NOT to file for patent protection, you still need to search enough to be confident that you are not violating the patent protection of someone else.
I am a fan of patents overall, if your product is a candidate…good on ya’. Just keep in mind that a) lots of new developers file too early (in my opinion) and b) patent attorneys are in the business of filing and defending patents so educate yourself and ask lots of good questions when selecting who will represent you.
Here is a great link to the USPTO for more information. They recently revamped the website and there is a lot of good stuff here, right from the horse’s mouth.