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Many of us have ideas for new products or services, but the question still has to be asked: "Why file a patent application?"
More than half of patent applications filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) are rejected. Of those that do get through, maybe 10% represent money-making inventions, while the rest oftentimes are remainders of ideas that did not pan out, get funded, or got left behind for something else.
The first questions a person should ask him/herself after a Eureka moment are:
This post will help answer these questions.
An inventor needs to consider three primary factors:
If you decide to file a patent application to cover a new invention, then your next big decision is with whom to file. The two most important traits for any patent attorney or patent agent are honesty and knowledge within the field.
The first quality, honesty, may seem obvious, but it is critical. Patent work and its associated costs are fungible. You may need to file in multiple jurisdictions and/or you may need more or fewer claims. You want an honest patent preparer so you are confident that whatever expenses you incur are real expenses. You do not want to be filing unnecessarily or filing bloated applications simply to help pay for the staff of the office you are using. You also want someone who can tell you that prior art exists and/or if there are significant risks in getting the patent you are sure that you deserve.
The second quality, knowledge in the field, is one of the greatest challenges in finding a patent preparer who understands the subject matter almost as well as the inventor him/herself. You have been spending months, maybe even years, on this topic and you know the literature inside and out. You may also be the only expert on your particular invention anywhere in the world. While one may not expect a patent attorney or to be such an expert, that person must be well-versed enough in your invention to allow him/her to understand the invention, compare it to the art, write cogent claims and complete the full application.
If the patent preparer does not fully understand the invention, then he/she may simply write a somewhat vacuous application that does not fully develop the concepts and embodiments of the invention. If a person does not understand a client’s invention, then he/she should suggest someone else to write the application.
The costs of filing a patent can be considerable, and it typically takes about 30 days to complete the patent process.
To draft the patent application, file it and handle the prosecution (responding to the examiners' communications) typically costs between $15,000 and $25,000. If you apply for coverage beyond the United States, say through a Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) filing, the costs can increase by tens of thousands of dollars more.
So, why file? Because, once issued, the protection offered by a patent provides a meaningful entry barrier for would-be competitors. Patents can also assist in raising capital for a company, as they are viewed as highly desirable by investment firms and angel investors, adding a level of security and lowering the risks associated with competition. Additionally, having patents in place also provides reasonable protection for discussions with possible strategic partners. As such, the costs are often justified.
Yes. A company called PatentTank provides low-cost, high-quality patent writing.
*Disclaimer*: Harvard Business Services, Inc. is neither a law firm nor an accounting firm and, even in cases where the author is an attorney, or a tax professional, nothing in this article constitutes legal or tax advice. This article provides general commentary on, and analysis of, the subject addressed. We strongly advise that you consult an attorney or tax professional to receive legal or tax guidance tailored to your specific circumstances. Any action taken or not taken based on this article is at your own risk. If an article cites or provides a link to third-party sources or websites, Harvard Business Services, Inc. is not responsible for and makes no representations regarding such source’s content or accuracy. Opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Harvard Business Services, Inc.