Solopreneur/Making Money from Invention/



Losing Patentability Of Your Invention Idea


There is a saying among professional inventors that ideas are useless and have no value unless they are acted upon and made into real world products. Just take a look around you, how many new products do you see each day?

You might not encounter or hear about a new product daily, but everyone has at least heard about one new product being developed. Let’s take a look for example the number of mobile apps available in the Apple and Google App Stores.

The combined number of apps for both stores now exceeds 4.82 million and growing. The number of apps uploaded everyday to the Google Play Store is about 3,739. This is just a small sampling of how mind boggling is the number of ideas that are being turned to products.

Of course, not all products become profitable and those that do are copied resulting in many cloned and counterfeit products. This is the reason why patents were invented. To protect the original person or group which thought of the idea and made it into a real world product.


DISCLAIMER

The information I will discuss in this article does not comprise of professional legal advise. The information discussed in this article is based on information I have collated online during my course of studies on the issue of patenting an invention idea.

In fact, even if you go online to the websites of professional and qualified legal experts who are most notably patent lawyers, you would get the same disclaimer. What they and I would advise is to seek real professional advise from real legal experts.

This does not mean however that this article is useless, the information given here is almost the same information or advise given by professional and qualified legal experts online. They just stopped short of making themselves accountable should you follow their advise without really asking for real legal advise.


THE IMPORTANCE OF PATENTS

Many would argue that in this world where counterfeiting is so rampant that even big multinational companies are stealing the invention of another person or company with complete disregard for the law, patents are useless, but this is exactly why you need it.

I share the belief that patent infringement should be considered a criminal act where violators could go to jail for engaging in such activities. Afterall, if stealing even the smallest item is considered a crime, then why not stealing another person’s invention.

We can debate this for a long time, we can say that patent laws and even the patent system is outdated and flawed, but if you are in the business of inventing or are in the business of selling a patentable product, it pays to still get a patent.


PATENTING IS LONG AND EXPENSIVE

Another argument that you would most probably also talk about is the issue of the patenting process. Applying for patents takes a long time and is expensive. Of course, if you file for a patent yourself in the patent office, the costs are quite reasonable.

But who has the proper educational training and years of experience to draft a patent application? I might like to grumble and complain about the high cost of patent lawyers, but this is just one of the things you should have to consider when you are really serious about patenting your invention.

Another thing you have to consider is the fact that a patent certification takes between three to five years to get approved. I won’t deny that the long wait is a very frustrating one. I too can sympathize with anyone who has to wait for their patent to issue while seeing other people violate their patent rights.

In case you’re not aware, when you apply for a patent and receive a patent pending status on your application, you can’t automatically go after anyone who violates your patent rights and put them in court.

You would have to wait for three to five years when your actual patent is issued before you can go after them. By this time, the people who violated your patent rights may already have illegally profited from your invention idea and have disappeared.


YOUR INVENTION IDEA MUST BE COMPLETELY NOVEL

If you are still reading this paragraph even after the previously mentioned problems about patenting your invention idea, I would presume that you are really serious about patenting your invention idea.

But before you tackle the issue of patenting your invention idea, you must be aware of the ironclad rule about being able to patent an invention idea. This is the issue of Novelty. Simply put, your invention idea must be unique that there is nothing like it that exists anywhere.

And when I mean anywhere, I mean globally. Let’s assume that you just have a flash of brilliance and came up with the idea for an innovative wooden house pillar foundation made only of wood.

Your idea could be groundbreaking. Since most houses today have concrete or steel pillar foundations, your wooden house pillar foundation might be unique. But wait, weren’t all houses during ancient times made of wood?

Centuries might have passed but this doesn’t excuse your wooden house pillar foundation invention idea from being not novel if it truly does exist even centuries ago. This makes your invention idea not patentable.


SEARCH FIRST IF YOUR IDEA IS NOT ALREADY PRIOR ART

As what my previous example has shown, even a forgotten and ancient invention can prevent you from getting a patent for your invention if your invention idea already exists. It doesn’t matter if it exists in some remote place centuries ago, it is still considered Prior Art.

Prior Art simply means that anything that has been publicly divulged. In our previous example of the innovative wooden house pillar foundation, as long as it is still novel and has not been publicly divulged it is still patentable.

For example, you might have actually installed your wooden pillar invention to your own house but it is hidden from the eyes of the public. This just means that only you or your family have seen it. Your invention is still patentable if this is the case.

Many inventors become so enthusiastic and even boastful once they have created an invention idea that they cannot help but boast, talk and show their invention to other people without first applying for a patent on it.

As a result of their careless action, their invention idea becomes prior art and ceases to become patentable. This is the reason why one of the qualities an inventor should have should be the ability to keep secrecy and humility.


WHAT CONSTITUTES PUBLIC DISCLOSURE?

The term Public Disclosure in the area of patent law simply means “the process or activity of disclosing your invention idea to the public.” This basically means that you have publicly disclosed your invention idea in a media form that can be indexed.

This means that showing your written notes or drawings of your invention to anyone from the public or speaking with anyone from the public about your invention idea in such a way that they can reasonably create your invention idea for themselves.

For example, you discussed your invention idea to the public in a seminar but didn’t hand out any written notes or drawings, but if you discussed your invention in such a way that anyone from the audience can create your invention idea themselves, this counts as public disclosure.


A PERSON REASONABLY SKILLED IN THE ART

In the last paragraph, I kept talking about your invention idea being recreated by someone else because you have given them public knowledge of how to do it. Patent law defines “a person reasonably skilled in the art” as anyone with the right training or knowledge to recreate your invention idea.

Using my wooden house pillar invention idea as an example again, it would be not in your best interest to discuss your invention idea to a carpenter, architect, civil engineer or anyone who knows about home building technology before patenting your invention idea first.

This are examples of persons who are reasonably skilled in the art. My research on legal patent laws do not go so as far as to consider anyone who are relatively uneducated or who have no real knowledge of how to create your invention idea.

But do not be fooled into thinking that you are safe. The issue of your invention being a prior art surfaces. This is the reason why to ensure that your invention idea remains patentable, you must avoid almost all activities that requires disclosing your invention idea to the public.


OFFER FOR SALE

One of the biggest recent developments at least to my knowledge in the USA in the area of patent law is the issue of Offer For Sale. As the term implies, this just means offering your invention idea for sale.

The patent laws at least in the USA stipulates that your right to patent your invention idea is lost once you offer your product for sale without first applying for a patent for it. I would advise that you study similar laws from other countries.

In the USA at least, what is now considered offers for sale are all activities related to your effort to sell your invention idea. You don’t have to disclose the details of your invention idea, a mere act of selling your invention idea is enough to invalidate your rights to patent an idea.


WHY IS THIS NEW RULING IMPORTANT?

This ruling is important because before the ruling took effect, it was perfectly legal for anyone to shop around first to see if there were any buyers for their invention idea. From a business perspective, it just makes sense.

I mean, why would you go to the expensive and long process of patenting your invention idea if no one would buy it. It simply makes sense right from a business standpoint? But you have to remember that the law have other ideas to businesspersons.


NON-DISCLOSURE AGREEMENTS

Some people like to point out to this document when pressed with the issue of public disclosure. If you must know, “Non-Disclosure Agreements” are legal documents preventing an individual or a company from disclosing the information disclosed to them for a certain period of time.

If you do a bit of research however, you would find that many legal experts advise that most companies or individuals don’t sign non-disclosure agreements for varying reasons. Non-disclosure agreements are also difficult to enforce and prosecute.

There is also the easy loophole for any individual or company to disclose the invention idea secretly to a third party in exchange for financial gains. This scenario is very difficult to prove and prosecute.


CONCLUSION

It is very evident that from an inventor’s point of view, a patent is not very helpful unless they can enforce it. And if they can even enforce it, it is a big drain of one’s time and money. This however shouldn’t prevent you from considering to patent your invention idea.

But before you can patent your invention idea, you must first make sure that your idea is patentable. This means ensuring that your invention idea is really unique and if it is, keeping sure that it remains a secret to the public first.




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