I am often asked if a patent is really important. I think so. Invention is a hobby in a sense, and you should enjoy your work; but the bottom line is that you are developing products to try to make money. Therefore, it's very important that you take the protection of your ideas seriously and the way to do that is to patent it.
Your patent is a legal document giving you the monopoly on your product.
In the past I've called it a "license to sue somebody." While it may sound harsh, that is exactly what it is.
A patent for any product is of fundamental importance. You can't do much without it; you certainly can't sell your invention. Most manufacturers or potential buyers/licensers won't even see you if you do not have one, or at least have applied for it.
You have no claim to ownership of the idea, service or product you've worked so hard to conceptualize and create without one.
This can't be stressed enough: a patent is a must.
A patent attorney's job is to give your product maximum protection against infringement, copying, and theft. If anyone attempted to steal your idea and patent it him/herself, you'd be protected because you applied first.
Before you do anything, however, you need to be sure that no one else has already developed the product or system you're working on (so you don't infringe on someone else's patent). This is called a patent search. (This search also will reveal whether someone else has invented a similar product, which you can modify, thus saving you some time and money.)
You can do a basic patent search on your computer. However, most computer databases go back only 20 years, so this isn't a foolproof system.
A good place to start any search is the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Website (www.uspto.gov) where you'll find a complete list of patent categories and some useful basic information for the new inventor.
Remember to think in the broadest terms possible about your product. Patents are filed by categories, and your product almost certainly fits into more than one.
A Band-Aid(r), for instance, could be classified as a wound covering, a dressing, a bandage, a surgical dressing, or any of a number of other possibilities.
To have a patent attorney perform a professional search for you, the cost would be about $600.
It may take up to six months to develop a patent application that effectively explains all of your ideas, and covers your product in the broadest terms possible.
If your attorney finds no invention like yours in the U.S. Patent Office you can file your patent application.
A patent will cost you anywhere from $4,000 to $8,000. If this is an unrealistic amount for you to pay at once, your attorney may be willing to work out an installment plan for you.
Don't forego the patent application. You could lose millions of dollars if an unscrupulous company steals your idea; your investment is worth the price of the patent.
Article - Copyright 2001 Stanley I. Mason. Syndicated by Paradigm News, Inc.