The process of applying for a patent can be exciting but is filled with potential pitfalls that can derail your best-laid plans. By avoiding a few common mistakes, you can give yourself and your invention the best possible chance to succeed. Missteps in the process of establishing a patent include:
Going public too soon
Showing your invention in public before getting your patent can be a game-breaking mistake. For one thing, potential competitors may seize upon the unprotected status of your invention and create their own version. Also, if you offer your invention for sale before it is patented, you only have one year to establish the patent or else lose the right to do so forever. In many cases, the inventor is not even aware this clock is winding down and ends up missing this deadline.
Poorly worded language
When writing a patent, an inventor (or the inventor’s attorney) must have a strong command of the invention’s design, use and applications so that he or she can describe it effectively. Vague language in a patent application can open the door for competitors to coopt the core ideas and tweak them in an attempt to create their own version before yours has a chance to develop.
Inadequate patent searches
A well-executed patent search gives you confidence that your invention is novel and needed. As you conduct a search, keep in mind that your invention must be both original and non-obvious to qualify as patentable. In this context, originality means a one-of-a-kind idea that hasn’t been developed before. Non-obvious means a person with ordinary skill and knowledge would not be able to come up with the same idea.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) provides a helpful list of resources for conducting patent searches, but you should always have an experienced intellectual property attorney review the results of a search so that nothing is overlooked.