I like patents. Let me start off saying that when used correctly, a strong patent can be the most valuable part of your invention’s value.
The trouble is that almost everyone gets it wrong. If fact the USPTO estimates that less than 1% of patents ever become commercially viable products. How is this possible? Here are five reasons to not get a patent:
1. FEAR: Many people with a new ideas rush to get a patent simply because they don’t know what else to do. If you have the resources it’s easier to pay someone to protect your fledgeling idea than it is to learn if it has any commercial merit. There is no reason to protect an idea before you know how or if that idea can pay you back.
2. EGO: For reasons I don’t agree with, our society places undue awe on the “mystical power” of having a patent issued in your name. The error here is that respect is given without regard to commercial success or even quality of the protection. The layperson and the novice inventor don’t understand the distinction and spend over $100 million a year on patents with no commercial value. Perhaps if patent frames came with cutouts for “cost of patent” and “revenue from patent” people would do more research earlier . You can buy much better looking art for $10,000.
3. HOPE: People think that if you get a patent issued, companies will find you and give you lots of money. I call it the Kevin Costner school of inventing. Even if you have an issued patent for your great idea you still need to learn how to approach the right person at the right company at the right time.
PROTECTION: People assume that having a patent issued will stop others from infringing on your idea. The truth is that it’s up to you to stop them and the way you do that is by taking them to court. Better get out your checkbook… The costs range from $650,000 to upwards of $5 million for a patent lawsuit. Your patent is only as strong as your ability to protect it.
LICENSING: If you are hoping to licensing your idea to another company to bring to market, make sure you understand the industry before you apply for a patent. Less than 1% of all products sold have patent protection, and many industries don’t bother with them. Other companies would rather have their own patent attorneys draft the patent so they can customize the all important claims, perhaps including the final manufacturing process for the product.
Of course you want to make money from your ideas and the thought of someone stealing your idea is too much to bear. So what should you do?
Provisional Patent Applications can give most inventors who are seeking to license all the protection you really need. At a 1/100th the cost of a utility patent you get to claim patent pending while you polish and pitch your concept, and still secure the all important first-to-file date. Sure you only have a year to file a full utility patent, but that should be plenty of time to find your licensing company and let them pay for the patent in your name.
Learn how to invent. It’s amazing how many people are willing to pay thousands for a potentially useless patent, but won’t spend a dime to learn how others have successfully done what they are trying to do. Join the United Inventors Association, find a local inventors club, or watch some free, high content Inventors Blueprint training videos.
Get to market fast. I like to imagine that for every good idea I have, at least 50 other people have the same solution. All good ideas have a window of opportunity, and your job is to beat everyone else to the finish line before that window closes.
When should you file a patent? Generally speaking if you are bringing the product to market yourself AND you have clear proof that there is a demand for your product AND you can see that the protection granted will bring you more revenue than it will cost you.
So get a patent if you determine there’s more value in having one, than the cost to get one. And not a minute before that.