Nolo publishes serveral self-help books for inventors on patenting. In their publicataions they point out that “fewer than 3% of all patented inventions every make money” and therefor, inventors should file their own provisional patent appliations ASAP to keep their initial costs low. While we agree that provisional patent application should be filed ASAP, we disagree with the 7 Questions they recommmend the inventor should ask before you file a provisional patent application (Is it commercial? Did you invent it? Do you own it? Is it useful? Does it fit in one of the patent classes? Is it novel? Is it obvious?)
A better approach is to first focus on the problem the invention addresses or solves. How was the problem discovered or recognized? (Why did you discover the problem? What clues did you notice that allowed you to see the problem?) How is the problem defined (this requires the inventor to view problem from different perspectives)? How is the problem represented?
If you first focus on the problem the invetion (recognition, definition, then representation), the issues of whether the invention is patentable and ‘commerical’ should be clearer. Please contact us if you need assistance.
The main reason “only 3% of patented invetions make money” is because the invention have not been properly described in the specification and drawings and/or the claims are too limiting or misdirected in the patent. How the problem and ivention are framed and defined in the patent that support claims that have optimal commerical value is key.
After you consider the problem issue, we then recommmend the following 7 questions or topics.
7 Common Questions or Topics Regarding Patent Applications:
- How do patent applications protect ideas?
- Do I need a patent?
- Is my idea patentable?
- How do I commercialize my idea?
- How do I determine its value?
- What are the alternatives to patenting?
- How do I pitch my idea to investors, other companies or customers?
Patents protect an invention from being made, sold, or used by others for a limited time period. There are three different types of patents in the United States:
- Utility Patents — These patents protect inventions that have a specific function, including things like chemicals, machines, and technology.
- Design Patents — These patents protect the unique way a manufactured object appears.
- Plant Patents — These patents protect plant varieties that are asexually reproduced, including hybrids.
Inventors secure their rights to an invention by applying a patent application and receiving a patant grant from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (called the USPTO). This process, which is a “first to file system,” begins by preparing and filing a patent application with the USPTO. Utility and design patent applications are assigned to an Examiner who prosecutes the application.
Prosecution is a complex, time consuming process. It is important that you analyze the invention, the marketplace, and develop a realistic strategy regarding how the invention will be commercialized. If you do not, you may receive a patent for a product or serivce that sits on the shelf and has little or no commercial value. Unfortunately, patent preparation companies or websites that offer ‘flat fee’ patent services often do not take time to assist inventors with these tasks. The adage ‘you get what you pay for’ is usually true.
It can also be unforgiving if errors are made. If the patent application is not written correctly, the entire invention can be lost. Sometimes, the USPTO personnel causes the error and the burden of catching the error falls on the Applicant or his attorney. If the error is not caught within a short time period, the application can be abandoned. Therefore, it is a good idea to hire an intellectual property attorney to make sure the patent application is properly written to protect the invention, the appropriate paperwork and fees are submitted, and documents from the USPTO are timely reviewed and handled.
After the patent has been granted, there may be important post filing matters that must be timely handled to prevent the inventor from losing the patent.