Question: What piece of advice do you have for those who are beginning the process of applying for a patent?
Be the First to Market Instead
"A patent is only as valuable as the money you are willing to spend to defend it. If someone wants to infringe, they can, and you are on the hook to spend the money to fight them. If they have resources to outlast you, your patent is virtually worthless. It is better to market and corner the core customers first and consider a patent second, rather than doing it the other way around."
Ask These Three Questions
"Is my product truly unique? Will I change the design in the next three to five years? Will my product life cycle last more than five years? If the answer is no to any these, think hard before moving forward. The time and monetary cost of filing and receiving a patent can cost you more than it's worth, especially if the design or market may change."
Do Your Research
"Do a thorough prior art search to find related or similar inventions. You need to understand what is already patented and how your invention differs. Pay particular attention to the “claims” section of each patent. This explains the bounds of each patent. Reviewing existing patents also will help you understand more about the components of a patent and what you need for your own."
Start With a Provisional Application
"A provisional patent application provides a chance to refine your patent in the 12 months following the filing date. The process is relatively cheap and quick, and allows you to legally use the term "patent-pending." Once the application is complete, you can conduct more research into a regular patent. It is best to work with a trusted legal team from the start, even in the provisional stage."
Interview a Few Experts
"Like any other adventure in life, you have to be prepared. Ask people who have done it what they learned about the process. Conduct interviews with them and be sure to ask what they learned and what mistakes they made in the process, as well as what they would do it again or change next time. Pay for advice if you need to, too."
Understand That the Laws Have Changed to "First to File"
"This is by far one of the most important rules in filing for a patent. Many people operate on the previous method of being the "first to invent," however that has recently changed to "first to file." The patent will go to whoever files the patent first, so it's important that you get your documentation in order and file quickly."
Consider What Regions You Need It to Cover
"Even a solid U.S. patent might not always protect you. Often people forget that patents are territorial and it's imperative to consider which regions and markets you will be working in. You don't always need to secure patents in countries that should not affect you, however if you have the budget and resources, it's something every startup with a unique invention or concept should consider."
"Start the process right away. Acquiring a patent is a long and rigorous process that should not be put off. It is very important to start as soon as you can because there is so much information you will need to supply that it will take you time to gather that information. It is not unusual either to be asked more questions or have to resubmit later when you have more details."