Inventions and Patents

Inventions and patents go hand in hand. If you have an invention and want to seek protection so that others cannot use your invention, you’ll want to have it patented. However, before you choose to go through the patent process alone, there are several things that you will need to be aware of.

Things to Keep in Mind for the Patenting of Your Invention

  • You cannot patent an idea. You will need to turn that idea into an actual invention. Patents protect the invention, a product that is actually manufactured, used, and sold to consumers.

  • The invention must be narrow and specific. The more specific, the better chance you will have of having your invention patented.

  • The patent must be meaningful. Therefore, you must be able to ascertain the actual benefits of the invention for consumers, the lowest cost possible for manufacturing the product, and it must also be a meaningful patent in that individuals will want to use it.

  • You should have illustrations of your idea. Such illustrations will be put in the patent application and will help those reviewing your application picture the invention. Furthermore, if you don’t have a prototype, providing illustrations is important to actually show your invention.

  • If you are unable to illustrate your invention, then you can have a professional draw your illustration inexpensively. You might also want to hire a company that can provide a 3D illustration of your invention

From Idea to Invention

If you don’t quite have an invention, but only an idea, you’ll want to find ways to expand on your idea to actually make it an invention, and thus have it patented. The idea, in short, will be the first step in determining what type of invention/product you have. Most importantly, you should have a strategy in mind that will allow you to narrow down your idea so it is no longer just an ‘idea’ but rather an actual invention. A prime example of this would be an idea to get rid of a specific problem in the home.

Specifically, you’ll want to:

  • Expand upon your idea while also being specific and narrow in how to change your idea into an invention.
  • Add details to your idea. Adding details will help you cross the boundary from idea to invention.
  • Be able to explain your idea. If you can explain it, then you will be able to identify specifics regarding the idea, and the goal of the idea, which will then cross the boundary and be viewed as an invention. The invention can then be patented.

Sharing Your Idea

  • Be very careful in sharing your idea with anyone. Remember that ideas are not protected. Therefore, if you are submitting your ideas to companies, those receiving your idea or reviewing it have every legal right to use your idea, turn it into an invention, and profit from it without providing you with any compensation.
  • Before sharing your idea with anyone, you should consider filing a provisional patent application, or, at the very least, seeking assistance from a licensing agent that has worked with companies that look for ideas or inventions to license or even acquire from inventors.
  • Think about having a confidentiality agreement on hand. Such agreements, generally referred to as non-disclosure agreements, are contracts entered into between two or more parties where a promise is made to keep the idea or invention confidential. The agreement itself can be either one-sided, meaning that one party agrees not to use or share the information received with anyone, or two-sided, meaning that both parties agree to maintain secrecy.
  • You might want to hire college students to help you with your patent application; remember to draft a non-disclosure agreement before doing so.
  • Similarly, you can reach out to friends or family that you trust. Some friends, depending on their background, may have some sound advice to provide you with on your idea or invention. Again, remember that you should still have some sort of confidentiality agreement drafted. Even if you have trust in your family and friends, the right to keep your invention as a trade secret is lost unless you have a confidentiality agreement drafted and signed.  

If you need help with turning your idea into a patent, 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.