This month we would like to introduce a guest to the blog.  Carly Klein has written a great article about the patent process.  Please read below!  Thanks Carly for your work!

Complications of Patenting a New Product Idea

French novelist Victor Hugo once said, “No army can withstand the strength of an idea whose time has come.” Every inventor, entrepreneur, or innovator knows the feeling of coming up with an idea that takes hold and demands to be realized.

When the idea is for a new product, one of the first steps that an inventor should take is to patent the invention. There are a number of complications involved in the process, but they are not insurmountable.

What is a patent?

A patent federally grants exclusive use to the inventor of a useful, novel, non-obvious invention for a specified time frame- usually up to twenty years. Patents are a powerful form of intellectual property, and protect inventions from infringement. The right conferred by a patent grant is “the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling” the invention in the United States or “importing” the invention into the United States.

Patenting as a quid pro quo

Patenting is a unique intellectual property consideration because it gives rise to a quid pro quo exchange of value between the inventor and the consuming public.

Patent attorney J.D. Houvener explains that, “By publishing a patent, the inventor of the object discloses what his or product is. This gives consumers the ability to obtain and personally utilize the product. In a patent application, which is public domain, the publisher (i.e. the inventor) provider details regarding his or her object and what makes the specific product unique. In return for disclosing their invention to the public, and for making the world a better, more educated, and more efficient place by doing so, the government rewards the inventor with a 20 year right. The inventor retains the right throughout this period to sell, own, transfer, and license his or her patent.”

The types of patents

There are three types of patents that your new product idea may fall under:

1. Utility Patents. These protect any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvements. Simple inventions will likely fall under this category.
2. Design Patents. These protect merely ornamental or aesthetic designs. Revisions and alterations to simple inventions often fall under this category. For example, a design patent can cover a new specific curve on a pre-existing hairbrush.
3. Plant Patents. These protect new varieties and species of plants.

What is the process involved in patenting my new product idea, and why is it so complex?

After sending in an application, the first step of how to patent an idea is passing an eligibility test by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. There are five elements for patent eligibility: (1) The intention be a new and useful process, machine, or object; (2) the invention must have utility; (3) the invention must be novel or new; (4) the invention must be non-obvious; and (5) the invention must not have been disclosed to the public before the patent application.

Most difficult element to prove: novelty

One key eligibility requirement is that an inventor need to prove that his or her invention is the first of its kind in the world. This can be difficult given how many products, inventions, and patents there are out there.

As an inventor, you will have to spend considerable time conducting your own level of diligence and research to determine whether there is anything else on the market like your idea. Look through Google, Amazon, etc. If nothing is similar and it brings new functionality, then you may be able to get past the eligibility requirement.

The other eligibility elements

If you are able to demonstrate novelty, then you will also have to demonstrate the other four. Even if it’s something technically new, your new product idea must be non-obvious in that it has to be out of the ordinary and not merely a knock off of an existing item.

Then, it has to have utility. This means that you have to show that your invention will bring a benefit to somebody, either by making their lives better, making a process more efficient, making something safer, etc. to show there’s some benefit to somebody.

It’s time-consuming, expensive, but doable

If your idea is truly worth it, then the patent process will be merely a roadblock on the path to success. A word of advice would be that after your application has been granted and you’ve received a provisional patent, be ready to hit the market right away- have a plan in place, and be organized enough to utilize the patent to your advantage.

[Author: Carly Klein]

Patent Attorney