As the 21st century gets into full swing, the value of intellectual property has never been greater, and the line between traditional products and digital ones has never been thinner. Whether you are an inventor, an entrepreneur or a business owner, you need to take patents and patent infringement very seriously.
Whether it is protecting your intellectual property and safeguarding your registered trademark in foreign markets or conducting a patent search closer to home, there are things you need to know – and critical mistakes you need to avoid.
The Value of Intellectual Property and Patent Protection
It is not hard to see how important the protection of registered trademarks and patent rights have become in the digital world. If you Google patent, you will see thousands of search results, all offering their own brand of advice and guidance.
Sorting through all those tips and pieces of advice can be a daunting task to say the least. Whether you are conducting a patent search for what you think is a brand new invention, seeking out a qualified patent attorney or registering a trademark, you need to find the right advice – guidance you can trust.
So how do you tell the good advice from the questionable? What can you do to protect yourself and find out how to get a patent? What is the difference between patent and patent pending? Where do you find advice on how to patent an idea?
Finding great advice is always a difficult thing to do, but taking the time to seek out that quality guidance can make a huge difference in the success of your business and your ability to patent your products going forward. Filing a patent and registering a trademark will not automatically protect your intellectual property rights, but without these basic steps, you will have no protection at all.
Conducting a Thorough Patent Search
No matter how original you think your idea is, the first step toward protecting your intellectual property rights is conducting a thorough and comprehensive patent search. If you are right and your idea is original, you can move forward with the rest of the patent process. If someone else has beaten you to the punch, you will avoid a lot of wasted time and misspent money.
Too many inventors either neglect the patent search process altogether or think that a cursory online search is all they need. Those DIY inventors Google patent and a quick description of their proposed product, and are relieved when nothing comes up.
Instead of seeking out an experienced patent attorney, those new inventors move on to the next step in the process, blissfully unaware that there are others out there – just waiting to lay claim to the product once it is on the market.
The Value of a Patent Attorney
No matter how novel or outlandish the invention, not retaining the help of an experienced patent attorney is just asking for trouble. Conducting a patent search involves much more than just Googling the word patent and describing the idea. Good patent attorneys know that, and they have access to vast databases that no Google search can uncover.
If you have a product or an idea for a product, your first step should be a thorough patent search, one aided by an experienced patent attorney. Keep in mind that this patent search process can take time, so you should not expect instant results. In the end, your patience will be rewarded, so try to use your time productively.
You can use the intervening weeks and months to make improvements to your product design, brainstorm marketing ideas and come up with a clever name for your new company. Even if your patent search results do not come out the way you had hoped, you can use what you have learned when the next bright idea strikes.
If the patent attorney you hire finds that your idea has never been registered, you can move on to the next step in the patent process. Once again, an experienced patent attorney will be extremely valuable, since they will be able to help you properly register a trademark, protect your intellectual property and get your product ready for market.
Watch Out for Shady Operators
There are plenty of patent experts out there, but there are also some shady operators. It is important to do your due diligence and research each potential patent partner carefully before getting started.
Use caution if a patent attorney or so-called expert guarantees a market for your product or tells you how much money you can make. No one can make these kinds of claims, and no reputable patent attorney would provide those kinds of guarantees.
Even if your product idea is a good one and there are no active patents, there is still the problem of marketing the idea, getting the prototypes made and getting the final design into retail and online stores. A good patent attorney can help you with the initial steps of the process, but they cannot guarantee your proposed product will be the next must-have item.
The Power of Secrecy
Whether you are already working with a patent attorney or still working through the details of your product design, it is best to keep your mouth shut about your great idea. Even if you want to brag to your friends and shout to the heavens, you should resist the urge to talk about your idea until all the patent protections and trademark guarantees are in place.
You never know when an errant word or misplaced comment will come back to haunt you, so keep your idea under your hat until it is time for the big unveil. Watch what you say on social media, be careful when emailing your friends and think through the implications of every disclosure, no matter how small. The protection of intellectual property is difficult enough; you do not want to sabotage your great idea before the patent is in place.
The protection of intellectual property and the securing of trademarks and patents is a critical consideration for any inventor. Whether this is your first great idea the latest in a long string of similar ones, it is important to research patent protection, trademark registration and applicable laws. The steps you take to protect yourself now can have a huge impact on your profits down the line.