Let’s say that you’re a business owner with a great idea that you believe could make life easier and business better for people like you. Your invention could help busy business people save time and cut costs – and not least of all, become a source of sizable income for you.
Because friends and family want the best for you, they might well insist that you shouldn’t waste a moment to protect this potentially life-changing idea. They say it’s important to file for a patent ASAP so that no one can steal your idea and its possible profits.
First things first
Your friends and family are in many respects correct. A patent is a powerful tool that can be used to protect your invention. But the first step you should take at this juncture is not toward the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) or the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO).
Author, inventor and entrepreneur Tamara Monosoff says the first step for you to take at this point is to work your way through four considerations that will give you a sharper view of your invention. If your idea is still glowing with promise afterward, a visit to the USPTO or CIPO could well be in your future.
- Patent research
Because you don’t want to infringe on an existing patent, you (or an intellectual property attorney) should conduct a preliminary patent search of U.S. or Canadian patents and published patent applications. This helps ensure that someone hasn’t already had the same brilliant idea and had it patented.
Develop a basic, working prototype of your invention to help determine its functionality. This process can also help you to fix possible design flaws and finalize decisions about materials and mechanics before filing for a patent. Some prototypes would be prohibitively expensive or exceeding time-consuming, so include those factors in considerations of prototypes.
- Market research
Determine who is in your market and how big that market is. If your potential market is too small, your product won’t be commercially viable. At the other end of the spectrum, many inventors are blinded by big dreams of “everyone” buying their product. Only realistic assessments of market size are useful.
- Cost to manufacture
You must also determine how your product will cost to manufacture. Monosoff points out that if it costs more to manufacture your product than the market’s willing to pay, the only money spent on your product will be your own.
It’s off to the patent office
After you’ve worked your way through Monosoff’s considerations, and all indications are positive, it’s time to get an IP attorney onboard (if you haven’t already done so earlier in the process). They’ll prepare the patent application, present it before the USPTO or CIPO, check on the status of pending patents and so on.
You’re on your way to reaping the rewards of your hard work.