Patents are powerful tools that enable businesses and inventors to defend their ideas. It can be a machine, process, composition of matter or manufactured item, but the widget must be new, unpatented and useful in some way. All told, there are 500,000 applications each year, with 300,000 of them granted by United States Patent and Trademark Office. Those who want to give their application the best chance for approval can strengthen their application by avoiding common mistakes.
Mistakes to avoid
While patents cover a variety of things, these common missteps are easy to avoid:
- Not doing a search: Doing a patent search can avoid investing a lot of time and effort into a product, only to realize someone else holds a patent on it.
- Not allocating enough money: Some try to keep the costs and fees down by cutting corners, but the thousands of dollars spent upfront for search fees, post allowance fees and legal fees can help avoid larger expenses tied to future disputes.
- Trying to do yourself: Many inventors and businesspeople are used to figuring things out alone, but the application process is complex, and there is the risk of getting it denied. So, working with someone with patent application experience is always smart.
- Public use or sale before a patent: Companies may be excited to bring something to market or need to generate interest or income to continue the work, but going public without patent protection can quickly lead to others swooping in to steal the idea. If the inventor fails to apply for a patent, the product goes into the public domain one year after public exposure.
- Not making a case: Applicants must properly disclose all vital information on the product, why there is a need for the patented invention and why it is unique enough to deserve a patent.
Know how it works
Patent applicants and patent holders must know how to use a patent effectively. This includes protecting it, licensing it to others and knowing its’ limitations (for example, patents last 20 years). Intellectual property attorneys can help address issues throughout the entire lifetime of the patent, from initial application onward.