The Dream of Patenting Your Idea
Have you ever had an idea for an invention that you thought about patenting? It is now possible with a word processer and the database available from the US Patent and Trademark Office to research, draft and file your own patent application. And then you could use that intellectual property and competitive position to start your own company.
Patents have marketing value as a credential and investment value indication of enterprise value. Patents and patent pending provide a startup with an asset to fund around. You can file your own patent application with the US Patent and Trademark Office for around $500.
An astute and experienced business mentor once advised me: “When in doubt, create assets.” A patent application costs less than $500 to file and an issued patent is worth $1 million on average. That is tremendous value leverage. This can be the basis of creating significant personal wealth.
Read the following and see if your idea meets the criteria to be patentable. If so, you may want to check out my book Patent It Yourself! and give it a go.
What are patents?
A patent is an exclusive property right for an invention and is granted to the inventor. A patent’s composition is structurally straightforward. It has a write up, a description of the invention and at the end it has one or more claims, each claim setting forth the concepts of your invention. A patent examiner reviews your application, and if they agree, issues you patent protection. A patent is essentially a twenty-year monopoly to operate in that space.
In the past decade the patent research, drafting, and filing process has evolved and the tools are now in place that makes it feasible for you to perform all the steps and file your own patent.
In the beginning of Edison’s career he wrote all his own patents. In one year 1883 he drafted 106 patent applications that turned into patents. Thomas Edison was awarded 1093 patents issued in his name. That is the record!
The process hasn’t gotten easier but the tools of word processing and the database on the United States Patent and Trademark Office website create an environment that empowers all of us to protect and commercialize our ideas and creativity.
Identifying Patent Opportunities
There are three basic criteria when analyzing whether an idea is something is worth pursuing for a patent.
First: is it potentially patentable. You can do a preliminary search of existing patents to check and make sure your invention isn’t already patented.
Second: is it technologically feasible. Many cool ideas are not necessarily inventions. Like wouldn’t it be cool if we had a perpetual motion machine. That’s not an invention. It’s a great idea but not an invention because, so far, it lies outside the laws of physics.
Third: is it commercially interesting. Just the fact that it’s a cool idea doesn’t make it commercially interesting. Is there a path to make the invention into some kind of product or service that will meet a need of customers.
If it is:
• Technologically feasible and
• Commercially worth pursuing,
It meets the triple test of where to put your patenting efforts and dollars.
What is patentable?
Technological features, product features, products and sales, and processes can be patented.
There are four general categories of criteria that must be met in order to be granted a patent:
• Eligibility: the invention must fall into one or more of four fields of subject matter:
o New and useful process,
o Manufacture, or
o Composition of matter
• Utility: it must be specifically and substantially useful
• Novelty: it must be distinguished from prior patents and public information
• Non obviousness: it must not be an obvious combination of prior patents and public information
Prior Art is the term used to describe previous inventions that are patented or disclosed publicly. It is your responsibility to make a search of previous inventions and make sure that your invention is actually new and unique and hasn’t been detailed and described before. Luckily the research process has been greatly simplified by the introduction of the searchable database on the USPTO website.
The great thing is you can search the patent and patent application database on the patent office’s website www.uspto.gov. The prior art patents, along with your descriptions of why your invention is different, gets submitted to the patent office as part of your application.
This is very important. There’s an obligation on patent applications to bring to the examiner all the prior art the applicant is aware of. Disclosing and addressing prior art will make your patent stronger because the claims will be crafted to avoid that prior art and be patentable over that prior art.
Do a thorough research of the prior art. Otherwise you will mistakenly craft broad claims that are already covered by previous patents. Any claim that is already part of an existing patent is invalid. Address the prior art in your application and get a strong patent.
• It’s got to be novel.
• It’s got to be non-obvious.
• And it has to be useful.