There are many reasons why people come up with great innovations; some do it for the fame and fortune, others desire to meet a specific need while others stumble upon a new thing while looking for something else. Whatever your reason may be, a lot of hours and at times money goes into innovating and there is need for you to protect your invention at all costs. Here’s how to do it:
- Understand Your Product
Not all innovations can be patented and for your idea to qualify for this license it needs to meet the following criteria:
- It must be original: no one else in the world has had the same idea.
- It must be usable: It should be something that people may desire to purchase
- It must be ingenious: people in your profession shouldn’t consider your innovation to be common place.
However if your innovation is an improvement on an already existing product or technology it may still qualify for a patent. This is because a patent secures a new composition, product, process or machine or any improvements on the mentioned items.
- Conduct a Search
Visit resourceful websites on the web and carry out a search to find out if your innovation has already been patented by someone else. Furthermore, if you intend to market or manufacture your product abroad then you will need to conduct searches within other jurisdictions.
- What Type of Protection do You Need?
Innovations can either be protected as trade secrets or as patents and each has its own pros and cons:
These are generally things that give you an edge over your competitors and you should have gone to great lengths to keep them out of the public eye. They are informal thus there is no paperwork to be filed and they have no expiration dates. Furthermore, you are not required to reveal the details of your innovation when you classify it as a trade secret. Such things as data compilations, designs, devices /instruments, formulas, patterns, practices and processes can be defined as trade secrets.
Usually confidentiality agreements (non-disclosure agreements) between you and anyone that may come into contact with your innovation should be signed. However, the details of your innovation may one day be leaked and if someone else claims that they discovered it first then you will have the burden of proof to show that you are the true inventor. Trade secret protection is therefore best for innovations that are still being researched.
A patent is a type of license that proves that an innovation belongs to you. It comes handy and is highly important when needed to produce in a court of law to proof that someone has infringed on your rights. However, unlike a trade secret whose details you keep to yourself, when you apply for a patent you have to reveal details of your innovation which of course exposes you to copy-cats.
Moreover, a patent has a shelf life of 20 years from the date of application and it costs money to patent your innovation (which isn’t the case with trade secrets). But on the bright side, a patent can be sold or used to negotiate for funding from banks, venture capitalists etc. Therefore, patenting a new invention seems like a good idea.
- Seek Professional Advice
The question of whether to treat your innovation as a trade secret or to patent it can be quite tricky and mistakes that you make at this point may cost you dearly in the long run. It is in your best interest to employ the services of established law firms that have lawyers that specialize in copyrights, patents and trademarks. They will guide you through the process. Of course their assistance will come at a fee but consider the benefits that your innovation may bring your way and the cost may prove to be worth it.