Back to Top

March 2012

The Right Way to Think About Patents

If you are an inventor wondering whether you should file for a patent, I suggest that what follows is the right way for you to think about patents:

  • A patent is a bargain between you and the government. In exchange for you teaching the public something new, useful, and non-obvious, the government will grant you certain monopoly rights for a finite duration of time.

Is a Provisional Patent Right for You?

So you want to see whether your invention has commercial appeal, but you don't want to discuss it with anyone because you run the risk they will steal your great idea.   A provisional patent might be just what you need.  But we've found that the provisional patent application is often misunderstood.

What is a provisional patent?

How do I appy for one?

Will I need a non-provisional patent, too?

How long do I have after I file my provisional patent?

Keep Your Ideas Close to the Vest

Did you know...that even if you are the first to invent patentable subject matter, and the first to file for a patent on that subject matter, you may have already lost your patent rights through your own actions.  Here are some activities to watch out for:

  • If your invention was offered for sale or was in public use in the US more than one year before you applied for a patent in the US, you are prohibited from obtaining a patent.

Inventor Do's and Don'ts

  • Do keep clear dated notes and drawings of your inventions.
  • Do document and date any prototypes and results that you obtain. Do file for patent protection sooner rather than later. Your official USPTO filing date is key to protecting your intellectual property.

Don't Lose Your Rights: Why Dates are so Important.

In the United States, the first person to invent something is the person who is entitled to the patent, provided they did not abandon the idea along the way.
Typically the first to invent is also the first to the patent office with a patent application, however, this is not always the case. When two different inventors assert that they were the first to invent then the patent office must investigate the priority date of each inventor to determine who invented first.

Know Your Patent Rights and Responsibilities

Obtaining patent protection for an invention is a crucial step in turning your great idea into a viable business opportunity. A U.S. patent awards you the right to prevent anyone else from making, using, or selling your invention in the United States. With this monopoly right you are better positioned to benefit from your creativity and hard work.