No matter whom you connect with in the business world… and your invention is a business… you have to determine what services they offer, what talent and expertise they bring to their work, and the price you have to pay for it. Gathering this information about an individual or firm is called “due diligence” in the business world, and it should be conducted before making any crucial decisions. (Hey! You might even want to try due diligence in other areas where commitment is involved.)
I sense from comments made in our Forum and elsewhere on this site, that many of our readers are somewhat skeptical about getting involved in the patent process, thinking it’s expensive, it’s uncertain, it won’t mean anything unless they have a lot of money to defend it…
In good conscience, I have to say that these concerns are warranted. Going through the process depicted on the diagram below will probably cost between $8,000 and $20,000, maybe more. And the money you spend does not assure you of getting a patent! Furthermore, if you do obtain a patent on your invention, you may still be the victim of knockoffs, especially if your product is successful. That means you may have to defend your patent by taking the idea thieves (okay, alleged idea thieves) to court, and that is where you will need the REAL money.
But, let’s not be too glum. Look at the positive side of pursuing a U.S. patent....
First, the U.S. patent system is probably the most fair and just system that our government has in place. The reputation of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the reputation of patent attorneys, as practitioners of patent and trademark law, are both extremely positive in an age when many government programs and legal professionals are held in less than high regard.
Second, while pursuing a patent is expensive, its rewards can be very great. If you are determined to pursue the sale of your invention (if you’re not, go back to the first column of the series: How To Come Up With A Great Product Idea ), you have a better chance of success with a patented product, whether it’s licensed to another company or sold directly by your own company. Besides, maybe with a good attorney to help you file your PPA (How Do Inventors Go To Market? The Provisional Patent Application ), you will find someone to license your invention and pay for the NPPA!
Third, you do have somewhat of a safety net if you have a Patentability Search and Opinion done by the right patent attorney. The purpose of the patentability opinion is to provide you with a degree of certainty about the likelihood your invention will receive a patent if it’s applied for, and which claims are liable to be accepted or rejected. Your patent application should not be a gamble: your attorney is schooled and experienced in patent law and should have a pretty good track record that is available for you to see prior to retaining her.
So, if your pulse is still strong and beating fast on your invention, let’s get on with it!