For innovators and inventors, it begins with the realization that there is a better way. In some cases, it begins with the stubborn proclamation, "I'm going to find a better way." No matter how it starts, the better way can lead to something new--something that deserves the protection of a patent.
For example, you've invented a new accessory for mobile phones. You realize the potential of this idea, but you also realize that other companies could easily copy the invention if you don't protect it. You need a patent.
What is a patent?
Designed to encourage innovation by requiring publication, a patent grants protection to the inventor by excluding others from making, using or selling the invention without compensation to the inventor.
What can be patented?
The patent law states that anyone who improves, invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, may obtain a patent.
What can't be patented?
You can't patent a suggestion or an abstract idea. Things have to be more concrete than that. And not surprisingly, laws of nature and physical phenomena will not get you a patent. Also, if your invention has been previously patented or there is not enough of a change (e.g. color or size change only), your request will be denied.
The patent process
Consulting with an experienced patent attorney is the best place to begin. The attorney's experience can be invaluable as you navigate the challenges of getting your invention patented. The stages of the process include:
- Patent search: Highly recommended, to determine if your invention has been patented or published previously.
- Application preparation: It's important that your attorney understand your invention, in order to be able to write about it effectively and defend it before a patent examiner.
- Patent office understanding: Your attorney should know what the patent office wants and how to best present the information.
- After the patent: You'll need to maintain the patent by renewing it every four years. Your patent attorney can also work with you to understand how to enforce your patent, if needed.
Getting your invention to market is a process and a strong, enforceable patent application is a key element in doing so. With your patent pending, companies often recognize that it is better business to work with you than to steal the idea.