July 3, 2016 | 4-minute read (776 words)
If your startup involves unique products or inventions, it’s a good idea to make sure your patents. are in order
Without a patent, your startup runs this risk of losing the product or idea to a competitor. You want to do everything you can to obtain intellectual property protection.
What is a Patent?
A patent is issued by the government and gives you exclusive rights to a design, process or new invention for a specified period of time.
With a patent you are protected from others stealing your idea.
How Do You Know It’s Patentable?
Once you’re considering going live with your product, you want to find out if it is patentable.
Here are a few questions to ask on the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) website to learn if your idea is patentable:
- Can I apply for a patent?
- What can and can’t be patented?
- How do I know if my invention is patentable?
- How long will my patent protection last?
- How much does it cost to get a patent?
You also want to conduct a search to see if your invention has already been publicly disclosed (patented). To do this, perform a patent search at the Public Search Facility.
You Can’t Patent an Idea
Unfortunately, you can’t patent an idea. It’s a bit more concrete than that.
Your idea must be structured as a tangible asset or design. In other words, you have to have a prototype or detailed descriptions and drawings. These sketches are vital to your success.
Different Types of Patents
While patent rules differ from country to country, most have different types of patents you can apply for.
Entrepreneurs and inventors in the US can look at patents in three areas: utility patents, design patents and plant patents. Let’s look at each one separately.
Utility patent: Issued for the invention of a new useful process, machine, manufacture or composition of matter.
Design patent: Issued for a new, original and ornamental design embodied in or applied to an article of manufacture.
Plant patent: Issued for a new and distinct, invented or discovered asexually reproduced plant.
First to File Wins
Patents go to the first inventor to file paperwork for them. So, if you and a competitor are working on similar products, the first to file comes out the winner.
This is an important aspect of patents for startup owners to pay attention to.
What this means is that you don’t want to delay applying for a patent until after you’ve developed your product and assessed its commercial potential.
Don’t let time sit. Don’t run the risk that someone else will beat you to it. Shell out cash for your patent application well before you know if your invention is marketable.
Determining the exact cost of a patent depends on the invention. For exact numbers, you can visit the USPTO Fee Schedule.
Basic filing fees start at around $280, with an additional search fee of $500 or more, examination fees of several hundred dollars, and lawyer fees that can be in excess of well over $5,000.
Bottom line – expect applying for a patent to cost upwards of $10,000 and more.
In addition, you can fast track your patent for a fee. To get it processed in one year, you can pay an extra fee of $2,400 for businesses with less than 500 employees or $4,800 with more.
Most patents take three years to process.
One of the biggest pitfalls for many startup owners is misunderstanding the patent process and not acting on it soon enough.
The final things we want to mention when it comes to patents are:
- Do a patent search.
- Create confidentiality agreements so word doesn’t leak out about your invention.
- File first.
Lastly, when contemplating filing a patent, be sure to seek out professional advice. The process is complicated, and patent guidelines and laws are constantly changing.
Startup owners can stay abreast of the latest news by checking in the USPTO website and the World Intellectual Property Organization.
Finally, don’t forget to file patents as soon as possible so you don’t risk losing your patent application to a competitor.
Are you a new startup ready to expand to a new country? Are you looking to get your new business off the ground abroad and watch it rise to success? We are here for you. We can help answer your questions and guide you through the process. Outsource your finances, payroll, HR duties and more to us. Contact Escalon today to get started.