A good idea, even a great idea, is insufficient to justify the filing of a patent application. It takes time to develop a novel, non-obvious, and useful invention for a strong application. Moreover, creating a product, process, or service that meets these criteria also takes time. It is difficult to know when to patent your idea. And every situation is unique, based on your invention, market, competitors, goals, and a variety of other factors. Consider the following five questions when deciding when to patent:
1. Is your idea novel/ unique?
Your idea and the resulting invention have to be novel and non-obvious in order to be granted a patent. It is critical to conduct a thorough review of relevant prior art to determine if or not your idea is patentable. Using an advanced patent search tool, such as XLSCOUT, allows you to discover similar inventions and uncover competitive intelligence.
2. Is your idea complete?
The USPTO employs a first-to-file system, which gives an advantage to the very first inventor to file a patent application for a particular technology. This means that it is critical to file early. However, if you file so early that the idea is incomplete, you will almost certainly be denied a patent. Therefore, your patent may not protect your final product because your idea has evolved over time. Keep in mind the enablement requirement, which states that someone must be able to replicate your invention based solely on your claims. If you file too soon, you may not meet this requirement.
3. Do you need to be quick in decision making?
In some cases, you may not have enough time to finish testing or market analysis before requiring patent protection. When used correctly, provisional patent applications can provide some security without the need to draft detailed claims or invest large sums of money. After choosing and sourcing materials, production, and even marketing, you can file a traditional patent application. The ability to combine multiple applications filed within a 12-month period makes deciding when to file a provisional patent application simpler.
4. How competitive is your industry?
Companies in highly competitive or rapidly changing industries may find their patents outdated before introducing their innovation to the market. Delaying your application until production is about to begin may be reasonable in this case. This allows you to get your application as close to your finished product as possible. It also limits competitors’ ability to start designing around your patent before your product launches in the market.
5. Have you made your idea public?
It’s critical to remember that once your product is publicly disclosed or sold, you have just 12 months to submit an application. If your application is not in any way related to the product you publicized, your innovation is not protected by your application. Understanding when to patent your idea entails knowing when you need or want to share it.