Many times when new inventors come to my office for advice they have a prototype of their idea all ready and want to bring it immediately to a company to see if can be licensed or sold. I always tell them to do a patent search and then file for a patent. Having a patent is the only way for you to protect your intellectual property – and that’s what your idea is.
Even though you can’t see it or touch it, intellectual property is as real as the chair you sat in to think up your idea.
It’s your property and the only way you can protect this particular kind of property against any kind of mischief – like someone stealing your idea and modifying it for their personal gain – is to have a patent if it’s an idea for a product, or a trademark, copyright or a trade secret for other kinds of intellectual property.
Basically a patent, either a design or utility patent, is granted by the Government to prevent other people and companies from making, using, selling, offering for sale or importing into the U.S. the patented invention for a period of 20 years after the patent issue. Because the criterion for a patent calls for the item to be novel, I recommend that you do a patent search to make sure it is. If the search shows that there has been a patent issued for a similar item, you still might be able to patent the unique aspect of your idea.
For instance, I have worked on many existing products (razors, sanitary napkins, product wrappers) that were already patented. I was able to make modifications and improvements, such as changing the shape or adding a new layer of a special covering designed specifically to do a job like absorbing liquids, etc. and have those modifications patented.
While you don’t necessarily have to do a patent search before you file for your patent, I recommend you do because even though it costs some money now, it can save you more money down the development road later on.
At the U.S. Patent and Trademark office, www.uspto.gov, you can search U.S. patents from 1971 to the present and request copies of them for a few dollars each.
I have always used the patent system for my products and currently hold 57 patents. I feel a patent is the safest way to protect a product. But there are many people who use the trademark system to protect their products. You can find information about this method and copyright information at the U.S. Patent Web site, too.
Even though the system to protect your intellectual property is time consuming and expensive, it’s like a business plan – it hurts a little (or a lot) while you’re doing it but it will soon feel better.
The process you go through will help define what you are doing and what you need to do to get your product to market; and thus is an important step in your road to eventual success!
Article – Copyright 2000 Stanley I. Mason. Syndicated by ParadigmTSA