Question: I have a new idea for a product or technology. Should I consider patenting my idea and if so, what is the first step?
Check for Prior Inventions
"You need to research your idea and make sure no one else has done anything like it. Otherwise, if there is 'prior art' as they call it, your patent application is unlikely to succeed. You should thoroughly run searches through sites like Google and Amazon of course, but also through the USPTO."
"It's never a bad idea to consider a patent, but going through the process is expensive and time-consuming. Talk to someone who specializes in your specific area. Technology patents have different requirements than other categories. Do your due diligence, and talk to legal council about filing for patent-pending status while you determine if you need full IP protection around your idea."
Make Sure Your Product Works
"The first step is to make sure your product or technology works. If you apply for a patent and your product doesn’t work, someone could invalidate your claim, and that would invalidate your patent. "
Determine Your End Game
"Patents are sometimes the right path, but definitely not the only path. Spend some time thinking through the best way to turn this idea into a product that people are willing to pay for. If you need to divulge the "secret sauce" to determine if there is commercial appeal, then consider filing a provisional patent that will give you some time to figure things out while limiting cost. Get professional help!"
Don't Bother, It’s a Waste of Time
"I believe patenting ideas early in the game is a waste of time. Ideas need to be developed into products before a patent can protect them. So, your first step is to create a working prototype and then get customers to use the product. Then, make it better based on customer feedback."
Don't Worry About It
"One of the most common questions I get from entrepreneurs that assume they have a unique idea is "should I patent my idea?" My advice is always the same -- most successful businesses aren't successful because they have a patent or because of a great idea. Ideas are a dime a dozen and patents are overrated. Instead, take action and focus on execution. As you demonstrate success, then get defensive."
Don't Patent Software
"Patenting software is a waste of your time and money. Your idea (and eventually product) will change so fast anyways that the patent will cover very little if it is granted. Instead, invest those resources in furthering your product development and sales. Use speed to market and inside knowledge of your market place (see Lean Startup and Lean Development) to gain and keep a competitive edge."
Fast Track Your IP
"As long as you reasonably believe that your IP is both valuable and patentable, then you absolutely should consider filing a patent. The USPTO has recently opened up a new "Accelerated Examination" process that can get your final disposition back within 12 months, and usually it comes back much faster. Get quotes from patent lawyers to potentially save money but protect your IP no matter what!"