If you have an idea for a novel invention you may want to protect the idea immediately with a patent. Whilst it may appear counter-intuitive, patenting should be one of the last steps you take. If you take it at all. A patent costs thousands of dollars. Apply too soon and your patent may be too narrow and have little value. A patent may not be required if your product moves in and out of the market quickly. You may decide instead to protect your creativity by getting to market first.
Your priority is to find out if your idea is commercially viable. Invest in market-feasibility study, to analyze investment costs, production feasibility, safety and profitability. A breakthrough patent that is so innovative, as the Wright brother’s ‘flying machine’ that you’ll be able to license it to competitors whilst you have the monopoly of the market for the twenty-year lifetime of your patent.
If a reputable company harshly critiques your idea, listen or it will cost you dear. Once you have determined that your idea has commercial viability, you can now decide whether you want to apply for a patent. Patents can take 1-3 years to be granted, so may not be required if your invention fits a fast-moving industry.
Risks of Patent
When applying for a patent you publicly disclose your invention, and in doing so potentially give other companies ideas and time to take competitive action. Ironically, if you don’t apply, your idea will stay safer in the early stages. And in the long run, the time and money you save may benefit you more than the patent.
However, if you think your innovation can take a large market share, patenting the idea may generate an income from the patent as well as the product itself.
Companies will take their chances knocking off products, counting on the fact that a small company can’t afford to take a fight very far. Is your item worth spending thousands of dollars to protect?
A preliminary patent search allows you to read related patents that helps you better understand the patent process. It may also help you confirm if your product will have a significant market value, be relevant by the time the patent comes through and whether the patent itself will have value as a saleable or licensable asset. Lots of similar patents reduces value, but if you have a patent that creates an entirely new market, it could be worth a fortune.
For most inventions, this is the time to start working on a prototype and to hire a professional to conduct a patent search.