When Should I Patent My Invention?
So, you want to sell your idea or a patent? Here are some factors to bear in mind.
The companies who are your potential purchasers have different criteria for accepting new ideas. Typically, larger companies demand that you have either a patent or patent pending prior to even looking at your invention.
Other small to medium size companies may be willing to look at your ideas with no patent pending and without a prototype.
In fact, one notable U.S. hand tool manufacturer accepts ideas without a patent and without a prototype. If they like it they will build a prototype, test market it within the company, and you still have the opportunity to potentially patent it on your own, AFTER you know that a company sees value in your invention and wants!
See how dramatically different these two approaches are. One suggests that you at least initiate the substantial expense of applying for a patent, PRIOR to even submitting your invention to a company, and the other approach allows you to forego this expense until AFTER you at least get some indication as to the potential marketability and interest in your invention.
With the United States being on the ‘first to invent’ system, you may have up to a one-year time period to do this type of market due diligence, PRIOR to filing a patent.
So, how do you find out whether your situation would apply to the first scenario, or the second one? The answer is simple. You simply have to communicate with the right people in the right companies. These people are the ones who would be your potential purchasers or licensees of your invention. The right people can tell you what it is the company would like to see from you, in what format, (email versus regular mail), and with what kind of proprietary protection they expect you to have prior to the submission of your invention to their company.
The good news is, you can identify the right company – and even pre-qualify them WITHOUT ever revealing the patentable subject matter or trade secrets of your invention.
Now the question becomes, why wouldn’t you do this do diligence, IN THE BEGINNING OF YOUR PROJECT if you have an opportunity to do so?
In this way, you can establish your development process and decide how much you need to budget, when, and for what. It enables you to answer questions regarding patenting, prototyping, and more. Will you need a ‘works – like’ working model or ‘looks-like’ sample and etc?
Inventors can easily do their own initial market research to identify whom these right companies are and talk to the right people who can give you these answers.
For more information and to learn how to do this, read The Inventors’ Bible: How to Market and License Your Brilliant Ideas, which has two chapters dedicated to instructions about how to learn this information, and it has a workbook included with the third edition with specific questions to ask and who to ask them of.
Disclaimer: Please know that I am not a patent attorney and I do not give legal advice. I approach these issues from a business prospective. Always use a registered attorney or agent for matters relating to patenting and the law .
Ron Docie, Sr. is President of Docie Marketing and Docie Development. He is the author of The Inventor's Bible, How to Market and License Your Brilliant Ideas, and has successfully commercialized new products and technology for himself and his inventor clients for over three decades.