PATENT  BASICS


There is no “easy patenting a-z” guide.  Learning about the patenting process will help you save money and get better results.  Do your homework!  Just remember, any general explanation of the patenting process may not be directly relevant to the details of your specific situation, and could be misleading if you don’t recognize how your circumstances differ.  There are many helpful resources on the Web, and your patent counsel should welcome the opportunity to discuss with you what is (or is not) constructive about them, as well as offer input tailored to your particular state of affairs.  This conversation may not be free though, so make sure you use the time wisely.  A few practical points that can help you avoid later problems are important to mention here.

This is something you should do.  Make a habit of regularly documenting your inventive activities.  Patent law in the United States has recently changed so that new patent applications' inventorship/ownership is now determined by the “first to file” principle. This unfortunate change was driven by big corporations' lobbying to pervert the U.S. patent system away from protecing innovators to one that protects corporate profit predictability instead. While it may no longer be possible to claim patent rights once another has filed, there are still crucial benefits that only a well-documented invention history can provide.  Hence, extensive and properly witnessed documentation can be critical.  In order to be as compelling as possible, it is better to establish your documentation sooner rather than later.

This is something you should not do.  You need to understand how not to hurt your ability to patent your invention.  Seemingly innocuous actions, such as a casual conversation, can bar you from obtaining a patent.  There are a variety of potentially risky actions which you should be aware of.  In terms of urgent consequences, one of the most critical is due to a difference between U.S. and international patent law.

This is why you should not do it.  In the U.S., you have one year to file for a patent after making a “public disclosure” of your invention.  In much of the rest of the world though, any public disclosure could immediately end your ability to patent your invention in those countries.  It can be relatively painless to ensure that you will avoid this risk.  Although filing for foreign patent protection may seem a distant or relatively minor concern, options like licensing or selling your invention to a company with international business interests could eventually arise.  The worth of such a transaction may be greatly enhanced by protecting now your future foreign patent protection capabilities.

This is something you should be careful about.  Provisional patent applications are sometimes promoted as a “quick and cheap” way to begin patenting your invention.  While provisional patent applications can play a very useful role, we do not agree with this depiction of them.  The components of a provisional patent application must satisfy the same statutory requirements as do the equivalent components of a non-provisional (i.e. “regular”) patent application.  The ultimate strength of an utility patent that claims priority from a provisional application will depend on how well that provisional meets these requirements.  In our opinion, entrusting a minimally constructed provisional application as the foundation for your future protection is an unwarranted risk.  In certain situations, a fast, provisional patent application filing may be necessary, but this should be a last resort, chosen only when circumstances prevent a better alternative.