You have a new product or innovation, and you’re interested in obtaining a patent to prevent others from using it. Here are five things to know and do.
1. Don’t tell anyone (except your patent attorney)
One of the requirements for obtaining a patent to cover your innovation is that your innovation is novel. Novel means that no one has disclosed your idea at anytime, anywhere in the world, before the date on which your patent application is filed. This includes both disclosures made by yourself, and by people who have come up with the same idea independently. While some countries have grace periods to protect you from disclosures made by yourself shortly before filing your patent application, many countries (including the UK and Europe) do not and so it is unwise to rely on them.
Evidence that you have sold, presented, or published your innovation before filing your patent application could be enough to stop your patent being granted. If you do need to discuss your innovation with anyone (e.g. with a manufacturer), make sure you have a non-disclosure agreement in place first.
2. Use a search engine
While you may not have seen anything like your product on the market, this doesn’t mean that someone hasn’t come up with it before elsewhere in the world. Before going to the effort and expense of filing a patent application, carry out some searches online to see if your innovation is already out there. While an online search is by no means comprehensive (and more detailed searches will be carried out by patent offices after an application has been filed), it can at least indicate if your idea is already freely available.
3. Collect your data
You have got a new innovation, you don’t believe that it’s been done before, and you want to move forward with filing a patent application. In order to draft your patent application, a patent attorney will need all the information you have regarding your idea. If relevant, collect any data or drawings you have which show your innovation and how it works. While you don’t need to wait until your product is finalised to file the application, you do need to know the direction in which your efforts are going.
4. Make sure you have ownership worked out
It is important to make sure that you have the right to file a patent application for your innovation. An invention made by an employee in the normal course of their work will belong to the employer, whereas one made by an inventor in their own time will belong to the inventor. If the invention was made under a collaboration agreement, then the agreement should spell out who owns any intellectual property which results from it, and any contract under which work was done on commission should do the same.
5. Understand that this will take a while
Obtaining a patent is not a quick or cheap process and is likely to take some years, particularly if you wish to seek protection overseas. However, once your patent application has been filed you can label your products “patent pending” and move your commercial plans forward.