Inventors want to know how to protect an invention. Watch this video to find out.
How Can Inventors Protect an Invention?
Read the transcript.
Today I’m here to answer the question “How does an inventor protect their invention?”
Usually, someone will give me a call and tell me that they have an idea for an invention, and ask if I can help them protect an invention, and what is the first step?
I typically suggest a patent search. A prior art. An invention search. Whatever you want to call it. What that does is it gives us an idea of what’s been doing before. Because, if something is already out there that’s the same or so close to your invention that it’s considered an obvious variation – you’re not going to be able to get a patent for it.
So let’s start with a professional search, have a professional searcher look for your invention, and have a patent attorney review the results with you, and give you an idea whether your invention rises to the level of something we should pursue at the Patent Office to protect an invention.
A patent search can save a lot of money in the long run
Doing a patent search might seem expensive at first, but in the long run, could end up saving you a lot of money if we find that your invention is already out there – and technically it’s not an invention anymore (it’s something you can already go buy).
Now it’s not required to do an invention search, but I generally suggest it and that’s the reason why. You don’t have to – I just put it out there for you to consider.
Once you do a prior art search (or decide you don’t want to do an invention search), then I usually talk about either filing a design patent application (for a design – what something looks like – not how it functions), or a utility patent application to protect an invention.
Design patents protect ornamental appearance; Utility patents protect function or “utility”
Now if it’s how it functions, I’m going to talk about either a provisional patent application or a regular utility application. Both of those are out there as options, and both are valid options. The decision is up to you, based on how much money you have, where you are in the product development cycle, how quickly you need to get something filed with the Patent Office. Those are all going to be considerations, and then you’re going to decide whether to do a provisional application or a regular utility application.
I also get asked whether you can file both a design and a utility application. The answer is yes – if your invention qualifies. So if your invention has both a unique ornamental appearance and a unique function, then you may be able to file both a design application and a utility application. I have clients that file both. Some clients file just the design applications. Others file just the utility application.
Next, I ask whether you want to file outside of the US (foreign filing). And we can usually do that with what’s called a PCT (Patent Cooperation Treaty) patent application. It covers most countries. Not all, but most of the major countries you may want to file in.
So to recap – the question was “how does an inventor protect his or her invention?”
The first step is to consider a prior art search. It’s not required, but often a good starting point.
Let’s consider whether the invention has design or utility (or both) that needs to be protected.
Then consider whether you want to file only in the US, or outside of the US as well.
I hope that answers the question “how to protect an invention?”