Let’s say you have a great idea. You’ve been toiling away in your basement or garage for months, maybe years, and finally, believe that you have something special on your hands says William D King. Now what? Your first inclination may be to rush the product to market so it can start making you money! However, before going through all of the time and expense necessary to get the product up and running, it is important to verify that someone else has not already come up with a similar idea. Why do this? Because if somebody else already had the same idea as you, then bringing your product to market would infringe upon their intellectual property rights (which could lead to costly litigation).
Fortunately, there are five relatively simple steps one can take in order to determine whether or not your idea has been previously patented.
Step 1: Identify the type of intellectual property you are attempting to protect
In order to best understand how to protect an idea from infringing upon somebody else’s intellectual property, it is important first to identify what types of ideas can be protected by what types of intellectual property rights. In general, there are three primary types of intellectual property: copyright, trademark, and patent says, William D King. When it comes to protecting a product idea, the most common type of protection utilized is a patent for utility inventions. This means that if your invention falls under any other category (e.g., design patents) then the same five-step process will still apply, but you should consult with an attorney before filing anything.
Step 2: Conduct a patent search
Once you have identified the type of protection that best suits your idea, it is time to conduct some searches. There are three different ways an individual can conduct his or her search; each serves its own purpose and will uncover different results (or none at all).
The first method would be to conduct a “general” patent search. A general patent search involves looking up every single word on every single patent within the last 20 years, which may yield 200-300 patents. This is not an exhaustive list; there are millions of patents in existence today. However, if you do not discover anything during this process, then it is safe to assume that your idea has not already been disclosed. A general patent search will cost a few hundred dollars and could take a couple of weeks. To a few months depending on the depth of your search.
Step 3: Conduct an “exhaustive” (or full) patent search
An exhaustive (or full) patent search involves looking up every single word on all patents. Issued within the last 20 years that are still in effect. This list is much smaller than the previous one; there are typically only 50,000-75,000 patents in existence today (still quite large). A patent attorney can conduct this type of search for approximately $1,500. While more expensive than a general search, it is more thorough and therefore worth the added expense. If you already know what intellectual property rights you would like to obtain in advance.
Note: If you cannot afford the upfront costs associated with hiring an attorney to perform a patent search. You may consider filing under the “Patent Pro Bono” system (more information can be found here). This program allows for individuals or small companies to file for patents at no cost; only after the patent is awarded do they have to pay fees associated. With issuance and maintenance/annuity explains William D King.
Step 4: Determine whether your idea could be protected by copyright law
Copyright protection attaches automatically upon the creation of an original work (regardless of whether it is registered). And protects artistic works such as writings, music, choreography, paintings, sculptures, photographs, etc. Works must possess some level of creativity in order to be protect. This type of protection usually does not provide the same benefits as patent law. Because it only protects artistic expression and not utilitarian functions. But it will protect against virtually anyone copying your work or using similar expressions in their own works (which could lead to costly litigation).
Step 5: Utilize confidentiality agreements when showing your idea to others
Even if you have conducted a thorough patent search and do not find any prior art for your idea. There is still another step that can be to further ensure that your idea is safe from being use by somebody else. It highly recommends that individuals utilize confidentiality agreements when disclosing any types of product ideas to outside parties. These should contain language prohibiting the other party from utilizing or sharing information. Regarding your idea and should be sign both by you and the other party before disclosing any information.
This article is by no means a definitive guide on how to protect your ideas explains William D King. Now that you have read this article, there are some questions. That those who come up with new product or service ideas may now consider