When should I apply for a patent?

There are conflicting opinions of when an inventor should file a patent application for their invention. Some say inventors should wait until all of the details of their invention have been worked out before filing a patent application. The reason being that if you make changes to your invention during product development, the inventor may need to file another patent application. Others say inventors should file a patent application as soon as possible to lock in rights to the invention.

Both answers are correct to some extent. So how do you know what you should do? Talk to a patent attorney early on, so that the patent attorney can help guide your decision based on your particular circumstances. Some patent attorneys offer a free consultation to first-time inventors. Other patent attorneys charge a nominal fee to meet with them. Either way, you can get specific advice for your particular situation.

But be wary of anyone other than a patent attorney telling you to wait to file a patent application for an invention.
Even more importantly, the patent law changes in the United States in 2013 from a first to invent patent system to a first to file patent system. That means even if you can prove that you invented something before someone else, if they filed their patent application before you filed your patent application, then the first to file inventor gets the patent.

Remember, there are low-cost ways to get a filing date with the Patent Office, such as filing a provisional patent application. Talk to a patent attorney about your options and don’t rely on others who may not have your best interests in mind.