What is a Patent?
A patent, in its simplest form is an exclusive right to a product, idea or invention which you may do whatever you please (sell, develop, produce or keep off the market) for a limited period of time pre-defined by the terms and conditions under which that patent was agreed.
So, if you come up with a great idea that you know is business worthy, how could you go about securing a patent for that idea?
As discussed in a previous article about trademarks, patents must be registered with the PTO (Patents and Trademarks Office). The applicant must fill out an application available at any local PTO office to register for a patent. However, although it may all seem like simple forms and letters, it can get a little complicated at points.
Is Your Product Patentable
When filling out the forms, this is the question you have to keep in the forefront of your mind. The forms go into great detail such as asking from a long description of your idea or invention, how it operates, multiple possible uses for, or interpretations of the product and even highly detailed and close-up drawings of the product.
These are necessary for the PTO office to review your application and determine whether or not it’s worthy of a patent. They will have to ensure that nothing like your invention as already been attempted (successfully or not). This process is known to take over two years which can be a long and arduous process in the business world.
If you think your product, idea or invention will stand up to the rigours of a patent application it’s best to begin the application right away; the sooner you do the sooner you’ll hear back from the PTO. You can apply at your local PTO office or online at www.uspto.gov. Here you’ll find help articles, printable forms and various copyright policies that make essential reading if you think your product may be crossing a border.
After a long wait to hear back from the PTO, should your product succeed you must keep the terms of the patent in mind when developing, marketing and selling your product. For example, it would breach your patent should you sell that product for a different use other than what you listed on the patent application.
You should also remember that a patent is only yours for a limited amount of time (normally 20 years) and further continuation in business with that invention would be illegal after the allocated time for the patent. If you are unsuccessful in your application, it’s best to readjust the thinking with your invention to see if it’s marketable for a different purpose and then apply again to the Patents and Trademarks Office.