Inventors are often enthusiastic people. And sometimes that enthusiasm and impatience to share their ideas and inventions with the world can be their worst enemy.
To make sure it’s you who gets the financial benefit from your invention you need to protect it before people get to hear about it. The most effective protection you can get is a patent that grants exclusive rights to make or sell the invention for 20 years.
When is the Right Time to Apply for Patent Protection?
Patent applications are expensive. They take a long time to process and they require a lot of detailed work to establish that your invention is unique and that it works.
Because applications are expensive there can be a temptation to put off applying while you talk to potential manufacturers or distributors, perhaps to check the commercial viability.
Some inventors have been naive enough to announce their invention in the hope of attracting funding before they have filed a viable patent application. Crowdfunding can be a particular risk in this respect.
Or maybe you might decide to pay somebody to carry out a patent search before committing to further development effort. The search would investigate whether somebody has already patented or applied for patent protection for something similar.
Any of these actions could ensure that your patent never gets approved
Confidentiality is Key
For a patent to be awarded the invention must not be in the public domain when the application is filed. Simply telling friends about your idea or discussing it down the pub could be enough to invalidate your application.
If you want to ensure that your application doesn’t fall at the first hurdle there are a couple of very simple rules to follow. The first is a bit like the first rule of ‘Fight Club’ – never talk about your invention unless you absolutely have to.
If you do need to discuss it – with potential commercial partners, for example – make sure all exchanges of information are covered by a cast iron non disclosure agreement. If you are talking to a patent lawyer or intellectual property attorney they are automatically bound by confidentiality through the nature of their work. They will also be able to advise you on suitable non-disclosure agreements.
Even after filing there are risks with non-confidential disclosures. If you subsequently identify opportunities to broaden the scope of protection by adapting your idea and filing additional patent applications, these could be invalidated if you’ve announced your initial invention to the world.
Getting the right advice early on helps ensure that your invention is protected. It also helps ensure that the protection you get is as wide and commercially advantageous as possible.
If you have a great idea, talk to us before you talk to anyone else.