A Patent is a legal right to ownership of “intellectual property,” IP for short. IP refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, and names and images used in commerce.
So, let’s quickly answer the questions inventors/entrepreneurs most often ask…
Who is eligible to get a Patent? – Anyone, anywhere, and at any age. But if an invention is made public, a valid US utility patent application must be filed within a one year grace period, and for a US design patent application, within a six month grace period.
What subjects are eligible for patent protection? – Mechanical, electrical, chemical, biologic, molecular, and informational apparatus, methods, and results produced.
Why should I get a Patent? – It can protect your commercially valuable product or process from competitors.
Should I check-out the patentability of my idea before filing for patent protection? – Of course!
What types of Patents are there? – Utility Patents for protecting mechanical, electrical, chemical, biomedical, molecular, and informational apparatus, systems, and their methods and products, Design Patents for protecting the appearance of items; and Plant Patents for protecting hybrid plants and flowers. In some countries a Utility Model patent can be issued without PTO examination.
Outline the patent process in a nutshell. – An applicant files a patent application document with the United States Patent & Trademark Office (PTO) which headquarters is located in Alexandria, Virginia, USA. The PTO examines the application and If it has a problem it notifies the applicant who may respond. This back and forth communication is part of the PTO examination process. If the application can be put into acceptable condition, the PTO declares a granted patent and prints, publishes, and forwards a patent document (the Patent) to the applicant. The Patent allows its owner to stop others from making, using, offering for sale, selling, and importing what the Patent protects.
How much does it cost to get a Patent? – If you prepare and file it yourself and the PTO accepts it, your cost is just the PTO filing fee and an issuance fee which pays for printing publishing, and sending you your patent document. If you have a legal professional prepare and file it, costs may range from a couple, to several thousand dollars and if your application runs into prosecution issues, there will be further costs. But think about it as starting a business venture. For instance, what would it cost to buy a franchise?
Can a Patent produce income? – You bet. By reducing or eliminating your competitors.
What opportunities does a Patent owner have? – You can offer your Patent for sale. You can license the commercial rights of your Patent to one or more businesses. You can base your own start-up business on your patent protection. You can raise investment capital for your business based on your patent rights.
What if a dominant company starts competing with me or infringes on my patent rights? – Find the biggest competitors of that dominant company and offer them a royalty license.
What if a foreign company starts importing a rip-off of my product? – Tell the US importer that they are infringing and must stop.
Should I start my own business or license my patent rights? – If you have no commercial experience, it may be necessary to go the royalty licensing route. Realize, that licensing is a very tricky business not for the inexperienced; get help. If you can license to a multinational company it may represent the greater income opportunity. If you can be, or are competent in business, possibly chose that route.
What does it cost to get rid of an infringer? – That depends on the infringer of course. Contact them and see how cooperative they might be. Will they stop? Will they take a royalty license? Will they buy you out? Does it make sense to split geographically? If they are belligerent, you may need to bring in the big guns.
Should I consider filing for foreign patent protection? – Only if you have, or plan to have, sales in that foreign market. US entrepreneurs often license foreign sales/marketing organizations to handle their US products. Please realize that language, lingo, buyer preferences, and many other marketing variables are usually very different outside the US.