Have you created something but you’re not sure if it can be patented? Are you wondering how you’d prevent it from being copied before patenting it?
Getting your head around the patent system can be intimidating. However, there are a few steps you can take to make it less overwhelming and get your invention protected before someone else does.
To begin with, it’s important to understand the different types of patents available and do your research on the patenting process. Having a qualified attorney assist you with your patent application is also recommended. Last, but not least, you should begin working on getting your patent as soon as possible.
Today, we’re exploring what kind of inventions can be patented and what you can do to protect your invention before applying for a patent.
What kind of inventions can be patented?
For an invention to be patentable, it must be new or original (something not previously invented), non-obvious (as in an improvement on something previously invented), and functional (it must work and not just be an idea). A clear description of how to use it and how it was made must also be provided.
Patents are granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in three categories: utility, design, and plant.
This is the most common type of patent. Utility patents are granted for new systems, equipment, and materials. They can also be filed to protect software, pharmaceuticals, and bioengineered organisms.
Filing for a utility patent is a long process, typically taking two to three years. Once it has been successfully filed, your invention will have a 20-year period of protection. Note that this type of permit requires maintenance fees.
Design patents can be filed for new and novel designs incorporated into or applied to manufactured goods. They only provide protection for a product’s appearance, such as its shape, pattern, or decorative elements.
A design patent protects a design for 15 years after it has been granted. Compared to utility patents, they are less expensive and are more readily available. Additionally, there are no maintenance fees.
Newly discovered or invented asexually reproducing plants may be eligible for patent protection. A few of these include new species, crossed species, seeds, and mutants.
They are valid for up to 20 years after filing and don’t require maintenance fees.
How To Protect Your Invention Before It Gets Patented
So, you’ve got your invention all set up, you’re ready to pitch to potential investors, and you’ve even created a social media account. It might seem like now’s the right time to file a patent application.
Wait a moment! Until your product is fully developed, it’s not advisable to do so.
The reason is that even though your invention is finally ready to make its debut, it does not necessarily mean that it’s been developed to its full potential. You cannot make amendments to a patent application. If you would like to make improvements to your invention, you would need to file an entirely new patent application.
Patenting a product is a long, expensive process. It’s important to carefully consider your options before submitting a patent application.
Apply for a provisional patent
At the time of release, your invention might still be in the works, and you might still be getting to know what the market demands. With a provisional patent, you can continue to improve and modify your invention while protecting it with the status of “patent pending”.
A provisional patent won’t give you a patent by default, and it cannot be extended. But it will give you 12 months to work on development and decide whether to file for a non-provisional patent. A provisional patent is also much less expensive to file than a nonprovisional one.
Use a non-disclosure agreement
If your invention does not yet meet the requirements for a provisional patent, a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) might be an option.
Also known as disclosure or confidentiality agreements, these contracts are used to protect intellectual property when dealing with third parties such as potential customers, investors, or partners.
Non-disclosure agreements generally follow the same guidelines as other contracts. Their objective is to prevent the receiving party from disclosing or using confidential information. If
the receiving party discloses the agreement’s information, it would be considered a breach of contract and could eventually lead to a lawsuit.
If You Need Consulting Regarding Patenting An Invention, Sanchelima & Associates Can Help
Sanchelima & Associates, P.A. is one of the leading intellectual property law firms in South Florida. With over 40 years of experience, we have represented the IP interests of a wide array of businesses in the US and abroad, including Fortune 500 companies. Whether you need a consultation or prosecution of a patent, trademark, or copyright, we can protect your business’s interests.
Contact us to book your consultation!