It's hard enough to grab hold of an idea, and harder yet to prove that it is your own and that you thought of it first. Yet if you want to bring your invention to the market, maybe even make a fortune off of new product sales, then staking a legal claim to that idea is exactly what you have to do. And like the race for the South Pole, patenting an invention is all about who gets there first.
As a man who has been there, let me offer a little patent help. Inventors will streamline their time and minimize their efforts - while ensuring full rights and revenues from their inventions - by following these patent ideas and guidelines:
- Your very first step is to officially establish a tangible, dated claim to your idea. Write your invention idea out in full detail to provide a written record, then get an independent time stamp and authentication of that record from a third party. In the past, you might have relied on a notary public to provide the most official authentication, and this is still an option today. However, you can use the impartiality of the internet to do the job reasonably well. Email yourself or a trusted friend the written details of the invention. That email will be unalterably dated. If two or more people apply for the same patent license simultaneously, a decision could come down to which party had the earliest such documented date of conception.
- Your next step is to make certain that your invention idea is indeed a new one. A patent will only be given to an idea for a genuinely new product or a distinct innovation on an existing product. Consequently, your first goal is to scan the marketplace and the patent office for any comparable idea. The internet can be a real friend to you in this step, rather than wandering around dozens of stores trying to look for a similar product to the invention you have in mind or in the workshop. Try out a few likely keyword strings in Google to see if your invention is already out there. Industry catalogs are also a quick and easy shortcut, if you can get your hands on them.
You can also do your existing patent search from a computer terminal nowadays. Even if you don't find your invention out in the world, someone may still have filed a patent for the idea, too recently to have reached the production stage or even so long ago as to have been forgotten. Your preliminary search on the internet may have already turned up potential patents comparable to your invention, but there are also sites that specialize in these records. Pursue those sites as well. Then as a last step, you can contact the US Patent and Trademark Office, which has its own website. This will be your only source for reviewing patents pending, and it is also the most thorough resource for existing patents.
- Now at last you can enter into the patent application process, through the US Patent and Trademark Office. Filling out the application will grant you a patent pending status on your patent claim and on your invention, which means that you can stamp your product with the Patent Pending label and safely begin all the work that will be involved in producing and marketing your new invention. You also have the option of a provisional patent, which for a much smaller fee will reserve the patent in your name for one year while you test the market for the commercial viability of your new product, on your way to a full patent application.
In any case, full patent approval will still be some time in coming, and it may cost you a few thousand dollars to register your final patent, but you have at least won the footrace to stake your claim to the invention.