It is natural to try to save money if you are considering your first startup with an innovative new product. The desire to cut costs is why some entrepreneurs seek a cheaper alternative to filing for a patent. However, supposed cheap methods of protecting your product design like the so-called poor man’s patent often do not work.
In the event you are considering a poor man’s patent, you should know that this method will not give your design any legal protection if you find that someone else has patented your invention.
The problem with the poor man’s patent
People who employ the poor man’s patent put documents describing their invention into an envelope and mail it to themselves using certified mail. Once they receive the package, they keep it sealed and do not open it. In theory, this method generates patent protection since the mailing package establishes that the design was in your possession on a particular date.
However, according to Chron, mailing yourself your own product designs does not create any legal protection. This is because U.S. patent law works off the first to file system. This means the government recognizes inventors who were the first to file for a particular design. Without an actual patent approval from the government, someone else could patent your design and use it to generate revenue.
Better alternatives exist
Entrepreneurs with money concerns have different ways to protect their products without spending a lot of money. If your product is in an early stage of development and you are not sure about its potential, you might file for a provisional patent. This gives you a year to test your idea and make changes before you decide to go ahead with a full patent.
Knowing your options before you make a move to protect your product idea may help you avoid trying methods that do not give you the legal protection you need for your product.