As an innovator or entrepreneur, it can be challenging to balance the desire to get your product to market quickly while still protecting your unique selling point through the patent process. While the cost of obtaining and maintaining patents may seem significant, it is crucial for small businesses to understand the process and take the necessary steps to protect their innovation.
Here are ten tips for successfully navigating the patent process:
1. Seek professional advice: A patent attorney can provide confidential advice on the legal requirements for a patent, highlight commercial considerations, and draft your application to maximize the chance of obtaining a granted patent.
2. Keep your idea secret: Explicitly prohibit employees from divulging details of your invention and use a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) if you must share it with others.
3. Determine if applying for a patent is the right thing to do: Obtaining a patent can be time-consuming and expensive, so consider the potential costs and benefits as part of your business plan.
4. Check no one has beaten you to it: Search for anything that has already disclosed your invention and determine if your ideas are novel and have an “inventive step.”
5. Prepare your application: Write your patent application in a very particular style that satisfies patent law requirements. Ensure that you describe the invention with enough detail so that someone else could put it into practice; figures are particularly helpful for explaining aspects of your invention.
6. File your application: File your application online at the UK Patent Office, paying attention to the fees and the requirements for an invention to be patentable.
7. Get it granted: The patent office will perform a search and examination of your invention, and you can pay for the process when filing your application or defer it to a later date.
8. Strategically file: Consider filing patents in other countries if you intend to launch products or services in those locations and claim priority to your earlier application.
9. Check that you can launch your product/service: Conduct a freedom to operate” assessment to determine if any patents are in force which relate to your product, and modify your product to avoid infringement or obtain a license to these patents.
10. Keep innovating: Your competitors will be able to see your invention when it is published 18 months after filing. Consider filing further applications to protect additional inventions and stay competitive.
By following these tips, you can successfully obtain and maintain patents to protect your innovation and maximize the potential benefits to your business.