Creativity is the most vital element that sets us apart from animals. In today’s world, millions of individuals compete to see who can invent the next big thing that will change the world. It’s inevitable that similar ideas might arise from different minds. Protecting a creative new idea has become a necessity. Patenting allows you to develop your invention without fear that someone might steal your concept and profit from it. Here are some steps you need to take to finalize a patent.
1. Fully document the design
Once you have an idea for a patent, the next step is to define it in writing. The written document should include exactly how the invention works, and a drawing if it’s a physical idea. For the drawing, you will need a view of the front, top, and side. You must also keep a record of every step of the invention process. Take note of every modification and small change you considered along the way, it will be useful to show that you thought of it on your own.
Keep careful records of who has been shown your idea, just in case. If you run it by some people at work, try to get non-disclosure agreements from them. They just have to acknowledge that all rights to the idea and any changes made to the idea are owned by you. It’s also a good idea to have witnesses sign your written description to prove that it’s really yours.
2. Conduct a preliminary patent search
The first thing on your mind should be whether your design is eligible to be considered for a patent. For starters, you can’t invent something that has already been invented. Infringing on another patent is off-limits. Nobody likes a copycat. You have to look through earlier developments in the field your design is in. This means browsing local and international patent databases.
It can be tedious and time-consuming, but it gets better with practice. Start by visiting a patent and trademark depository library. If you find that this is too time-consuming, you can always hire a professional patent lawyer to assist you in your search. They will know the ins-and-outs of the business and where to look.
3. Provisional patents are your friends
Sometimes, different people will come to the same idea in a similar timeframe. The patent process takes months and, in the meantime, someone else could get it first. To prevent this, you can file what is called a “provisional patent”. The way provisional patents work is by preventing other people from developing that same idea for about twelve months. During this time, if you create a working product, it will be labelled as “patent pending”.
The catch is that you have an obligation to file a legitimate “non-provisional” patent within that timeframe, or else the provisional patent is void. This method is very useful if you’re racing to be the first one to cash-in on an idea.
4. Submit your patent
A non-provisional patent protects your original design from being copied and sold by other companies or individuals. Once you’ve completed all of the previous steps, filing for a real patent is your next move. Your application has to include several things. You have to demonstrate how the invention is used, explain why it differs from other similar designs, and describe exactly what part of it should be patented.
Once the process is finalized, you now have to protect your idea from being copied. If you catch someone using your idea under another name, it might be wise to lawyer up. Legal experts are necessary for any patent infringement dispute, as you have an obligation to protect your patent as best you can.
5. A prototype could be useful
A patent stays at the “idea” phase until the patent process is done, but having something tangible could help you in the meantime. It is strongly recommended for you to develop a prototype before it officially becomes a patent. There are several reasons for this. It gives you something to show potential investors and licensees. Anything physical will better educate people on the principle of the patent, and show them that the concept works.
It’s also very useful for detecting potential problems in the design. Once the patent is finalized, it becomes very difficult to change anything regarding the device. If a material turns out to be unusable, you can’t change it unless you patent it again. A working prototype will tell you that the design is ready to be made en masse.
In conclusion, patenting is a tedious process that requires a lot of time, effort, and paperwork. But it all pays off in the end when you can safely produce the product you want without anyone being able to mooch off your idea. Follow these steps and you will have a working patent in no time.