Invention Protection 101

How Can You Protect Your Invention?

invention protectionInventions can be protected legally a variety of ways, depending on the nature of the invention. Patent protection, both provisional and standard, is the main invention protection method in the US and most Western countries.

This article will address a few points about invention protection options that will assist an inventor in getting his invention patented.

Quick and Short Term Invention Protection

Here’s some seemingly but not always obvious invention protection advice: Until you have it all figured out don’t tell too many people. Anyone who works on the invention with you should sign a non-disclosure agreement. Whenever possible, minimize the number of people who contribute to the project and make sure the people who do work on it for you have good reputation and are trustworthy. The more people an inventor involves in the inventive process, the harder it will be to keep the device a secret, and the more invention protection you will have.

Make Sure Your Invention Qualifies for Protection under the Law

Not all inventions can be patented or qualify for other types of legal protection from copying. Is the invention truly novel? Do you have a great idea but no working prototype or machine? You may not have anything you can legally protect. Even with an invention that cannot be patented inventors make money all the time. A great invention that cannot be protected in the marketplace has a good chance of being copied, so it can be difficult to get investors and businesses interested in it.

Only the following types of things are patentable: machines, processes, compositions of matter, or an article of manufacture. Even then the item must be useful in some way to qualify for patentable invention protection.

Provisional Patents

A Short-Term Affordable Option for an Invention that is Likely to be Patentable 

A provisional patent will provide some invention protection during the pitch process. It is a preliminary filing with the USPTO that gives a description of the invention without all of the other supportive paperwork. It costs a few hundred dollars. The protection lasts a year or so, after that the filer of the provisional patent has to send in additional paperwork to convert the provisional patent application to a standard patent application.

Find a Partner with Deeper Pockets than You to Back It, and Possibly Pay for the Full Patent

If an inventor can find investors or businesses that believe in the invention and see its commercial value, they may want to develop and pay for the costly process of patenting the invention. In addition, if someone else copies the invention and starts making it while the patent application or patent are enforceable, which is called infringement on the patent, the deeper pockets will be able to pay to defend the patent.

Do Some of the Preliminary Work for the Patent Yourself

You can do some of the initial work to determine whether to patent an invention or not before investing in a patent attorney or agent and making the long term commitment to the patenting process of prosecution. You can perform basic patent searches on free sites all over the web, including the USPTO just to get a preliminary sense. Patent searching is not an easy process, so inexperienced people should not rely on their own searches to establish that their invention is novel. Professional patent and prior art searchers can determine if the invention is already out there in the public domain or under patent protection for a fairly reasonable sum.

A patent typically costs at least a few thousand dollars to get to a registered number, so it is good to make sure that the invention is valuable enough to the inventor before the investment is made. More complicated patents can cost tens of thousands of dollars and take several years to prosecute. An inventor can reduce the cost of patenting a less complicated patent by some of the shortcuts described here, but ultimately the level of commitment required to complete the process should not be underestimated. Inventors should be fairly sure that the value of the patent to them is on par with their investment of money and time.

These are some preliminary invention protection methods. Note that it is always advisable to consult with a patent attorney for specific advice related to your needs.