Many of us think of making it big and never working another day. However, the reality is that the majority of us will work into our golden years. Ron Reardon, a patent agent was quoted saying that, the odds of making money from an invention aren't good- 1 in 100, 1 in 1000, I'm not sure- but they are better than the lottery." In the words of LLOYD, " SO YOU'RE SAYING THERE IS A CHANCE?" Of course there is always a chance, but don't let your window of opportunity shut before your eyes.
In our society inventions come in all shapes and forms and the truth is that inspiration can strike anybody. Here are a few tips that may be helpful if you are considering protecting your invention.
Determine if Your Invention Qualifies
Although millions of patents have been granted in the United States and other countries over the years, there are many things that are not eligible to receive patent protection. These include general business ideas and strategies, printed material, scientific theories, mathematical formulas, and obvious changes to existing items, although some of the above can be legally protected in other ways. Printed material, for instance, can be protected through copyrights.
Understand Patent Law
According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), inventions don't qualify for patent protection in the following circumstances:
1. Make Sure Your Invention Is Different
Patent law also requires that your invention be different than anyone else's invention, new, novel, and non-obvious in order to qualify for protection. You'll have to do a patent search to make sure no one else already holds a patent for your concept — referred to in legalese as doing a search of "prior art." But even if a search turns up no "prior art" for your exact invention and your concept has one or more differences than existing patents – for example, changes in color or size — you may still be turned down. In order to grant a patent, the law requires that there must be sufficient differences between your invention and what has been described or put in use before — so much so that the distinctions should be obvious to a person with ordinary knowledge of the subject, according to the PTO.
2. Your Invention Must Be Useful
Patent law also specifies that the subject matter of your patent application must be "useful." The PTO defines this term as that "the subject matter has a useful purpose and also includes operativeness, that is, a machine which will not operate to perform the intended purpose would not be called useful, and therefore would not be granted a patent."
Types of Patents
Inventors may apply for patents on a wide variety of types of inventions, from the appearance of a product to a new chemical composition to a new-fangled pen. Therefore, there are different types of patents. The three major categories are as follows:
1. Utility Patents
Utility Patents are the most common kind of patents. They are granted to inventors who, according to the PTO, invent or discover any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or compositions of matter (mixtures of ingredients, chemical compounds), or any new and useful variations of existing products, processes, or compositions. The legal definition of "process" in this instance includes new industrial or technical methods. Utility patents are the most complex of the three kinds of patents, for they require the patent applicant to provide a full description of the invention's functional and/or structural features (often including detailed drawings) as well as the inventor's explanation of what he or she feels is "patentable." Inventors filing utility patents subsequently are more likely to secure legal help in making certain that all details of the patent are adequately addressed. In recent years, the greatest increase in this kind of patent application has been seen in Internet-related business methodologies and innovations.
2. Design Patents
Inventors can also obtain patents on the appearance of a product, provided that it is a new and original design. As Richard C. Levy notes in his Inventor's Desktop Companion, "if you've invented any new, original, and ornamental designs for an article of manufacture, a design patent may be appropriate. A design patent protects only the appearance of an article and not its structure or utilitarian features." Thomas Field, author of the Small Business Administration's Avoiding Patent, Trademark and Copyright Problems, points out that both design patents and utility patents "do more than prevent copying; they forbid the making, using or selling of an invention similar to or the same as the protected invention," even in situations where the second invention was independently created.
3. Plant Patents
This kind of patent is granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant, including cultivated sports, mutants, hybrids, and newly found seedlings. The PTO does not grant plant patents, however, for tuber-propagated plants or plants found in an uncultivated state. Asexually propagated plants, notes Levy, are those that are reproduced by means other than from seeds, such as rooting of cuttings, layering, budding, grafting, and inarching. Plant patents comprise only a small minority of the total number of patents that have been bestowed by the PTO.
Determine Marketability of Invention
Before going through the considerable effort — and sometimes expense — of filing an application for patent protection, you need to address a fundamental question: Is there a market for your invention? The National Inventor Fraud Center advises that one way to determine the marketability of your invention is to determine whether other companies would be able to profit from your invention – either right now or at some point in the future. If there's no market, then the question about whether you need a patent is moot. If there is a market for your invention, then you want your business to be able to capitalize on that marketability and, therefore, you should file for patent protection so that the other companies have to license those patent rights from your business.
Did you know that Attorney Guillermo Lara can help you with patent law if you reside in San Antonio or Bexar County? Initially becoming interested in law to pursue patent law and protecting the ideas of individuals in the courts, Attorney Lara became attracted to criminal defense following a job at the Public Defender's office in Texas. Find out how he can help your case in a free consultation!