Protecting Your Innovations
The most-desired way to protect technological innovations is with patents. They let the owner prevent competitors from using the patented technology, or set a royalty rate. Patents expire 20 years after filing, and give the owner market power to set pricing based on demand and product value, and not based on low-cost competition.
How to Delay Your Patent Investment Without Losing Rights
Because a patent application is usually a substantial investment, smart companies often wish to defer the decision whether to invest until the product is fully developed, the market better assessed, and cash flow more available. But uninformed delaying can cause legal problems. First, there is an absolute deadline to file a patent application no later than one year after a product is released to the market. If it’s been on the market for more than a year, it’s too late. The details of this are covered in my book.
Inventors face more time pressure and legal risk since the US patent laws changed to a “first-to-file” system. Basically, it no longer matters who invents something first. Now, whoever files their patent application first wins the patent. (Unless you can prove that the guy who filed before you got the idea from you). So there’s always an uncertain risk that someone else will file before you. Unfortunately, this puts pressure on you to file sooner than you’d like to.
Provisional (“Caveman”) Patents Provide Affordable Peace of Mind
The good news is that there is a simple way to buy some time cheaply, while insuring against the risk of someone filing before you. The new strategy is to file a “Provisional Application for Patent” early and cheaply, which, temporarily secures your rights if we file a full patent application within a year. A provisional application does not have strict format requirements, so a quick-and-dirty write up with enough sketches can be all it takes to secure your status as “first to file.”
When my clients prepare their own sketches, and do their own write-up, I call it a “Caveman™ patent”. It’s so easy even a caveman can do it, and just about every inventor has no trouble putting together enough drawings and words to show that they really invented the invention. One issue of my newsletter explains exactly How to Write a Caveman Patent, so be sure to download a copy, and get your own free newsletter subscription so you don’t miss the advice I put in every issue.
The best thing about a Caveman patent is that it costs you essentially nothing. There’s a $1000 charge that covers the filing fee, my review to be sure your documentation is adequate, and my office’s services to format and file the application and to notify you when the deadline approaches for the full patent application filing.
Your cost is essentially nothing because the full $1000 is credited to the full patent application. That makes it essentially free. We can even file a sequence of Caveman filings over the year as new ideas come up, and the full patent application can cover them all, with all of the Caveman filing costs credited to the full patent application. You can even credit a bunch of unrelated Caveman filings toward one full patent you decide is worth the investment.
This way, you can secure your “first to file” status without making a big investment, and you have a chance to test the technology and the market before deciding to invest.
When to File a Full Patent
Of course, in many cases, my clients don’t want to delay the patent process. When an invention is fully developed and there’s confidence that the investment is justified, then we proceed with a full patent application right away. This is especially important when there are expected to be infringers – the sooner you file, the sooner you can get enforceable protection. Of course, filing fast is critical if the invention has been on a market nearly a year.
Whether you are trying to put off investments in legal fees, or you have an invention that’s ready to patent, call me as early as possible so I can advise about all the deadlines, answer your questions, and make sure your legal rights are secure. For new clients, there’s no charge for the initial patent conference.