So, you’ve come up with a great idea that you know will be a successful business. Your first inclination may be to protect the idea at all costs, but, in fact, many experts recommend patenting as one of the final steps of the idea’s development.
The process from ideation to completion can be a long one, so before you put resources into patenting, first evaluate the idea to ensure its viability and that a patent is a good move.
What Is a Patent?
A patent is simply a government-granted right to an inventor to stop others from developing the idea or product without the inventor’s permission. A patent is granted for a specified time period and makes the invention the property of the inventor. Like other forms of property, patents can be purchased, sold, and licensed.
It’s important to note that patents do not ensure success, but pretty much every successful invention is patented. There are several signs that the time is right to patent your idea.
- The Development Is Mostly CompleteBefore applying for a patent, critically evaluate your idea, product, target market, and competition. Developing a basic prototype can help refine the product’s functionality and ensure the design, construction, and materials are close to being finalized before filing the patent application. It can be difficult to change materials or mechanics once the patent is filed.
- The Market Is ReadyOnce your idea is well developed, determine the target market — demographics, size of the market, and geographical areas. While getting the opinions of friends and family is a valuable early step in market research, it’s also important to ask a third party or even invest in a market-feasibility study, which may cost a few hundred dollars but can analyze costs, production, and profitability. Understanding the costs is an essential part of market research, because if the product will cost more than the market is willing to pay, the invention may need to be re-evaluated.
- The Idea Is UniqueAlong with the product development and market analysis, it’s a good idea to do a preliminary patent search to identify any similar products in the market and to make sure your idea doesn’t infringe on someone else’s.
- The Idea Needs to Go PublicWhile you don’t want to rush into patenting, you also don’t want to wait too long. Make sure your idea is ready before going public — whether via selling, displaying it, or publishing details about it. U.S. patent law says once the idea is publicly disclosed, a one-year timeframe begins.
If you recognize these signs in your ideation process, it’s time to think about filing a patent. Many experts recommend that inventors not undertake the process alone. Instead, inventors should write a draft of the patent application and then ask a professional to review it and help with the filing process.
Have any questions about patenting your idea? Call us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on the inventor’s hotline at 888.864.1760 or email us firstname.lastname@example.org.