I Have an Invention: Everything You Need to Know
You say to yourself, “I have an invention—what do I do with it?” Well, the most important thing to know is that you cannot patent an idea. 6 min read
I Have an Invention
You say to yourself, “I have an invention—what do I do with it?” Well, the most important thing to know is that you cannot patent an idea. Your idea must have enough detail and specificity to turn it into an invention. You must be able to state specifics regarding your invention, how it can help others, and how you are going to carry out the invention. You will also need to draft sketches and drawings of your invention that can be explained to others. If you are unable to draft it yourself, you can hire an illustrator for a reasonable price.
Next, you’ll want to seek assistance from a product development company to help create a prototype of your invention. You may also want to work with a company that offers 3D services to help illustrate your invention in a realistic way. Keep in mind, however, that a number of companies won’t assist inventors unless their product is patent pending.
It is also important for inventors to consider having at least a provisional patent application filed before discussing the invention with others. Without patent protection or a confidentiality agreement, an inventor runs the risk of someone else stealing the invention legally without his or her permission. A confidentiality agreement, also referred to as a non-disclosure agreement, is a contract that promises the other party will not disclose the invention to anyone. Mutual confidentiality agreements are appropriate when both parties exchange information; and one-sided confidentiality agreements are appropriate when only one party is exchanging information, i.e. an inventor sharing the invention with a company providing a 3D sketch of the invention.
Inventors can reach out to engineering students to assist them in developing the invention. They can also reach out to friends and family who would be more than willing to help. There are many inventors groups out there to allow inventors with similar inventions to speak to one another or give advice where needed.
How to Turn Your Idea into a Product
In 2012, the USPTO reported a total of 1.5 million pending patent applications, much higher than the 269,000 applications ten years prior. Of those 1.5 million pending applications in 2012, only 270,000 were issued.
But before you can apply for patent protection, you’ll want to turn your idea into an invention, or product. Without that, the idea itself is useless. When the inventor is ready to have the invention protected, he or she can apply for patent protection with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). When inventors write their ideas down on paper and mail it to themselves in a sealed envelope, they claim to have a poor mans patent since they have proof of the date of the invention’s conception. Keep in mind that a “poor man’s patent” never holds up in court.
Instead of using the “poor mans patent” method, you should write down your invention in an inventor’s journal and have a witness sign it. However, it must be in a notebook that has pages numbered consecutively and those pages can’t be removed. You can find an inventor’s journal at most bookstores.
Before getting started with your patent application, you’ll want to:
- Conduct a search on the USPTO website to ensure that your invention is not already patented.
- You’ll also want to determine how marketable your invention is. In fact, 95% of all patents don’t make money for its inventors.
- Compare other similar types of inventions to see what type of competition you are up against.
- You’ll want to determine rough costs for manufacturing and distributing your invention. You’ll want to ensure that your product can be manufactured and distributed at a much lower cost than the expenses involved so that you can make a profit.
- Make a prototype of your invention. As previously noted, draft a drawing or work with a company that can create a drawing for you or provide a 3D model of your invention.
Create a Sold Prototype
The prototype could be one of the most important aspects of your invention. There are some advantages to prototypes, including the fact that it allows inventors to see a physical representation of the invention to see if it needs to be developed any further or altered in any way. It is a good idea to hire a product designer, which doesn’t have to be an expensive ordeal. There are many freelance designers willing to take on the job for very little.
Don’t forget that the prototype allows investors to see the invention in real time. This is important so that the potential investors can determine how profitable the invention is. In addition to investors, inventors can also look for funding by applying for loans, grants, or finding a government program that can assist them. Inventors can also look for financial assistance through venture capital, which is money provided by companies in exchange for revenue profits.
Choosing Which Type of Patent
When filing for patent protection, you can choose to file a provisional patent application as opposed to the traditional non-provisional application. Note that the provisional application will not include the ‘Claims’ section, which specifically includes a claim, or declaration, that the invention is yours and that you are unaware of any similar types of inventions that already have patent protection. What is, however, required in this application is a description of your invention. You should be detailed and specific as to all aspects and features of your invention. To reiterate, while you are not required to include a ‘Claims’ section in your provisional patent application, you can do so if you wish. This can help you succeed in your non-provisional application should you choose to file it within 12 months after the filing of the provisional application.
After filing for a provisional patent, you’ll have 12 months to then file for non-provisional patent protection. After filing this application, the non-provisional application claims the benefit of the provisional application. Therefore, you should make sure that your provisional application is specific and detailed. While it is a rather straightforward and easy application, take it seriously because all items in that provisional application will be put into the non-provisional application.
Keep in mind that provisional applications are not examined. Only non-provisional patent applications are placed in a queue and subsequently examined.
Inventors can submit a draft patent application and subsequently convert it into a utility application. Generally, it takes just about a year to complete. More specifically, utility patents protect specific types of things, such as machines, systems, or methods. Keep in mind that you can file either a provisional utility patent application, as mentioned above, or a non-provisional utility patent application.
Such a patent protects only aesthetic design choices, including the design of manufactured products, the shape of various medical devices, and the layout of user interfaces. Design patents provide protection for a time period of 14 years. Someone can have both a utility and design patent. For example, someone who invents a machine to be used to make a specific product, having designed that machine in a specific way, can apply for a utility patent for the piece of machinery itself and a design patent for the design of the machine. Notably, the review for a design or utility patent is much shorter and much less expensive.
While it is advisable to hire a patent attorney to assist you throughout the process, you might choose to go at it alone. Filing a patent on your own will cost a lot less, but be mindful that it takes a lot of time. It may take even more time for you as you lack the professional knowledge. So, if you do choose to do it on your own, keep in mind that you will need conduct expansive research. You can search through google.com/patent to see if your invention is already being used and patented by someone else. There are several academic papers and other related websites out there that can explain the patent process itself. You may even want to reach out to others who operate in the same field as you to see if they patented their inventions and how they went about the process. You can reach out to these individuals through social networks.
If you need help turning your idea into an invention, or need additional help patenting your invention, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel’s marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.