How to Patent a New Idea: Everything You Need to Know
How to patent a new idea involves exploring all the possibilities around it then applying the idea to a patent application. 8 min read
How to Patent a New Idea
How to patent a new idea involves exploring all the possibilities around it then applying the idea to a patent application. Many advertisements suggest coming up with an idea can get a patent. Anyone downloading a patent application from the United States Patent and Trademark Office learns that the idea must become sketched, visualized, detailed, and searched to even have a chance at a patent. Ideas remain important like a seed with the right conditions it grows into a full entity. The patent system of laws that guide how to patent a new idea ensures your idea gets full value and protection from other entities. It causes you to consider all the variations of an idea. Known as embodiments these alternatives list other ways an idea or invention can work.
Moving From Idea to Patent
The process on the application insists on details descriptions of your idea. The detail must give enough so a person not familiar with your invention can recreate the invention. Then money becomes paid to the inventor for allowing usage of an idea. Sketching the parts of your idea helps others visualize the content you describe. It also leaves no doubt what your idea does or does not do. Patent illustrators exist that can help bring your idea to life for a fee. The Patent Office accepts sketches from the inventor itself just as easily. Labeling and detailing the sketches offers more evidence of just what your idea is. Also, consider doing the illustrations in three-dimensional format. As the patent progresses detailed drawings such as these make it more likely to receive approval. It makes the embodiments easier to see which in turn expands the patent and gives it a wide berth. As investors ask about your idea, three-dimensional drawings help an investor decide whether or not to fund your project.
Specific details about your invention or idea need to be kept to yourself or with trusted colleagues. Intellectual property can become stolen. So, do not share deep details until the patent process nears completion. Certain patent applications protect your developing project for a year and let you phase in aspects of the patent process. It allows a business to display the “patent pending” on its materials. This alerts the business community that legalities exist for using ideas or the invention without proper compensation. Also, understand that research at other companies may overlap your own on your invention. Once the patent process starts the possibilities of making mutually beneficial relationships materialize. If those entities respect the pending patent and pay fairly for its rights, your invention can become attached to another company’s prototype.
Other means exist to protect an idea or invention that do not meet the level of a patent but still offer protection for your rights. Often companies have you sign non-disclosure agreements or confidentiality agreements to ensure you do not share their product or service without their permission. Just as equally having a patent pending reminds companies that while you are searching for help, it is not permission to use your idea or invention without permission. Consider using a university to help you in the process of all this. Education facilities are extremely familiar with confidentiality agreements and know how to approach and handle such items.
Types of Confidentiality Agreements
While waiting making confidentiality agreements keep everyone honest. Several categories exist.
- One sided confidentiality agreement – a disclosing party and a receiving part agree to maintain secrecy about a pending patent or project.
- Mutually confidentiality agreement – both parties state confidential information for the purpose of disclosing information to a group or to start negotiations of a business deal.
- Unilateral confidentiality agreement-one party gives confidential information but not the other. This type of agreement occurs when an inventor converses with a possible investor or to obtain a license.
Turning Your Invention Ideas into a Product
Filing a patent facilitates taking it to the next level and creating a product. Now that both parties know about patent then both parties understand about the protection. The Patent Office makes the rules by law, so a burden becomes lifted while negotiating. Looking at all the possibilities and the markets give key insight into turning an idea into a product. Surveys of what consumers want plus what they buy helps define and refine what the product should become. All of this increases the value of the original idea.
Start by making notes of how you came up with the idea and what areas you have explored. It gives a trail of documents that show how an idea evolved over time. It also gives proof to a court if someone steals the idea. The original rough sketches and notes offer adequate proof the idea is yours. Write down all the possibilities. As time goes on some of those paths will become embodiments or variations of your original idea and can become included in the patent. Some people place the information in an envelope and mail to themselves to provide a third party stamping of when they had the original idea. It may not hold up in court, but it does offer another verification that the idea was yours. Journals exist for such excursions which list as bound notebooks with consecutively numbered pages. Having a witness occasionally sign the book will not hurt and along with other information offers more proof.
How to patent a good idea starts with research. Its core determines originality. Research from a legal viewpoint to protect the idea and then from a business standpoint to see if it is marketable. Do a preliminary patent search to make sure the idea has not cropped up before. Sometimes inventions are not obvious but contained within hubs or covered up by other mechanisms. Patent libraries exist to see if a trip to one of those gives any insight into the invention or idea. Check in with the Patent Office the examiners can guide you if you do not have a patent attorney. If you hire a patent attorney, they should offer the search service as part of their fee. Have a non-patent “prior art” search done on any sketches as well. Artwork or designs can hold up a patent just as easily as text does. Keep an eye on the fees you pay. Reality is nearly 95 percent of the patents do not make enough money to equal what was paid to do the patent. Take a look at developing trends in the market and what the markets for your invention are like. Do some research on production cost of creating your product. Can a product be produced and then prices put at a level a consumer will buy. Take a look at similar products on the markets presently to get some idea of the pricing.
Make a Prototype
Making a three dimensional model of the invention gives insights into its workings. This adds more detail to the patent and shows other variations of your invention. It gives something physical to present to investors, lenders, and licensees. Accept that the idea even with the prototype it will not be perfect. Part of the process becomes working out issues or expanding as needed. A three-dimensional working model presents the truth of your idea and shows the possibilities of combining with other enterprises. If there remains a need other business will buy the rights or license your invention for use. Having the prototype lets the other company check compatibility. Make sure they can be trusted. Better yet have a group of colleagues who you hand pick and trust to help clarify ideas and processes. Those opinions can alleviate much stress and shine a light on other possibilities you have not even considered. It will also determine if you have revamped a piece of a process or created something entirely new. Patents are given for improvement on pieces. That clarifies immensely what the patent will be for.
File a Patent
Several types of patents exist. New ways or machines take a utility patent, and most patents fall into this category. If it involves art and fashion, then a design patent needs to be filled out. If it involves green living plants, then apply for a plant patent. Fill out the application but have an attorney look over the document. Depending on your market research determine the level you want to protect the patent. If it has big market potential pay the fees and get an attorney to protect it. Competition can be wonderful economic tool, but sometimes it becomes a weapon to destroy any new idea. That affects the economy in a negative way immensely. New markets create new services or improve existing markets. In the early stages competition is not an appropriate technique to get your invention or idea patented.
Marketing Your Invention
Spend a portion of your time checking on trends in the market that your idea or invention can use. Look at the markets presently as well. Expert blogs remain a good place to check on trends. Check by regions what is unpopular in one regions may be like gold in another. If your business has a global aspect check if the patent should be USA or done in a foreign country. Foreign country patents do not use the same process so with those estimating a possible commercial venture becomes even more important. Ask questions of those in those market of where they think the market will go and what will be hot the next year.
Check first what can become patented and what cannot be patented early on. Natural events, abstract ideas, and invention that have no use such as improvements on an eight-track tape (old audio technology) are not fodder for patents. A list in the FAQ at the Patent Office exists that can answer questions. Look for items that can rule out a patent.
Applying and Filing for a Patent
Electronic filing exists at the United States Patent Office. So, begin by registering your idea there. Obtain a customer number along with a digital certificate. Federal law requires examiners to help inventors who do not have a patent attorney. Doing each piece and reading the form carefully will help you navigate the system and fill out the application. Any questions contact the Patent Office or view the website.
Provisional Patent Application
A provisional patent has a shorter form and gives a year of protection. The caution becomes not over talking about your patent since it can cause you to not become patented. It is not automatic, but it can become frustrating. It has a patent search requirement. It lets you know who works in the market and uses product similar to yours. It reveals other companies doing similar projects to yours who may be interested in your patent. Also, potential investors or knowing who to license your product may become revealed. Finding similar products patents gives a guideline on how to do yours. Take a search through YouTube, ETSY or Amazon in case your idea or invention resides there.
Writing Your Patent Application
Gather the research, the documents and the sketches made. Scan and see where each piece should fit. Take pictures with your cell phone, so you have a digital copy of the information. Now reread the application and see if it makes more sense now that you have done the process. Make decisions on how the invention becomes used and how it will become produced. See what points can be interchanged with other elements and make note of it. Resolve any doubts you have about the originality. You have done your homework, and the Patent Office will take care of the rest.
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