A patent is a right, granted by the United States to an inventor, to exclude others from making, using, selling or importing an invention throughout the United States without the inventor’s consent. The inventor may license or sell the rights defined by the claims of the patent. An inventor can also use “patent pending” on their products and marketing materials after a patent application is filed. There are currently over 7 million United States patents issued to inventors. Without a patent, anyone can make and sell your invention without your permission and without compensating you. Learning how to patent an idea can be the difference between success and failure.
Patent protection should always be considered by an inventor during the initial stages of their invention. Anyone who says an inventor does not need a patent in today’s market does not know the current marketplace.
Prior to the 1980, it was possible for the “little guy” to start up his own company to manufacture a new product he invented without patent protection. Back then, the company who built a better mousetrap was the company that survived.
Today’s marketplace is significantly different from the good old days. Large corporations now dominate the marketplace with fierce price cutting strategies. Large companies are forced to merge to simply compete in today’s extremely competitive market.
What do large corporations now do with their intellectual property? Do they simply “out market” their competition by producing a better product and don’t file for patent protection like it used to be? Unfortunately not. Because competition between companies is extremely strong and investors are ever more requiring to see assets in a company, they are actually filing more patent applications.
For example, IBM received approximately 1,800 patents in 1997. This number dramatically increased to 2,700 patents in 1998! Why the sudden increase? Because IBM knows that protecting your innovative ideas through patents is the best and most cost effective method currently available. When, and if, a better method comes along, these large corporations will switch their strategies to that. A patent provides IBM approximately 20 years of exclusive use of the invention with little competition.
Let’s put it another way. If you want to increase your profit margins on a product you are selling, would you invite competitors to make identical products or would you attempt to be the exclusive manufacturer of the product? Simple. You want to be the exclusive producer of your innovative product, hence you have to file for patent protection.
Anyone that tells you different does not understand the reality of the marketplace. The following subsections will discuss the two main types of patents available to inventors – utility patents and design patents. They will also discuss Do You Need a Patent. There is also discussion on the Benefits of Patent Protection. There are two sections dedicated to discussing What is Patentable and What is Not Patentable. You will also want to read about patent searches and patent applications prior to speaking with a patent attorney about your invention. Finally, Neustel Law Offices has information on How Much Does a Patent Cost.
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