Intellectual Property and Patents

You can protect your intellectual property (IP) by obtaining a Patent on your idea. You should contact a professional IP Lawyer who can provide the services you need to get a Patent. Success at obtaining a patent requires a thorough understanding of the application process. From patent searches to prosecuting claims in the patent office, it is advisable to hire a professional. See also this Durham University video about Intellectual Property and Patents:

What To Do First?

Make a record of your invention
In order to establish an invention record which may be relied upon for evidence, make a complete written description of your invention along with any sketches or drawings. Your written narrative should describe in precise detail what the product or process is, how to use it, what it is good for and how to make it or use it. Every part of the product or process should be numbered and these numbers inserted into the text of the written description immediately following the name of that item.

Sign it
Print your name and the date you first conceived of the idea on at least one sheet (preferably all) and sign your name next to your printed name. For the date of conception, use the earliest dated document which includes some element of your invention. Preferably, you have kept a written record of each step of your inventive process in a notebook which could be witnessed along with your written narrative. If not, an invoice or order form for parts or notes in your day planner could be suitable. Remember to sign and date each sketch or drawing.

Have it witnessed
Leave space on each sheet to have two trusted persons, not related to you, witness your invention. Each witness should understand your invention from the written record and should sign over his/her printed name and put the date of review next to the signature. The witnesses should be persons who can and will attest to your invention in case you are no longer able to do so. You might ask your clergy person, attorney, insurance agent or teacher or consult the services of a registered professional engineer, architect, land surveyor or a registered patent practitioner.

Can’t I Just Mail It To Myself?

Myths about Patents
Mailing your application to yourself and retaining it in an unopened envelope is just wasting postage. The old wives tale of mailing it to yourself has little evidentiary value. By making and witnessing a complete description of your invention, you are establishing one of the most credible records of the invention. Another credible record is the Document Disclosure Program available from the United States Patent & Trademark Office.

What’s Next?

You should conduct a search for similar items as soon as possible to determine if you do, in fact, have a novel product. A search is a first step, or at least a second step-once you have written down your invention and had it witnessed in your product development process. Since nearly half of the patents filed in the U.S. Patent office never make it to market, there are a lot of patents unknown to the public. A search finds many of those undeveloped products. Focus On Patents, Inc., for example, will conduct a search for around $450.

Focus utilizes electronic and print media as well as local shopping for prior art searches. A copy of all pertinent documents is provided to the inventor along with a letter giving a brief overview of the reference and the differences, if any, between the invention and the reference. Discussion of the references by phone, fax or in-person is included in the search fee. If the search does not reveal prior art barring you from filing, you can proceed with your development and patenting processes.

The next step might then be filing a provisional application for the patent to be discussed later. By about nine months after filing the provisional or the first public disclosure you should know if your invention will make money for you. You can then contact a patent professional for filing the utility application.

Provisional Application

Provisional Definition
Since a complete description with sketches and the following forms are all that is required for a provisional filing, you may feel that your invention record is suitable for filing as your own provisional application. A professional lawyer should be able to complete any review and make necessary suggestions in a couple of hours and will issue a letter with those suggestions.

There are some forms you will need to identify the application as a provisional and establish you as an independent inventor allowing you to file for the above fee. Keep a copy of everything you prepare in a safe place. The provisional application allows inventors to finish development, test, test market and finalize all aspects of their invention while enjoying one year of “patent pending” status.

Before the end of that year, the inventor must file a full utility patent or lose the priority date established. If you have already made your invention public, you must file the utility application before the end of one year after the first public disclosure, that is, the first offer for sale, or the first sale, or the first publication in media form, or the first showing at, for example, a trade show.