How do I know if/when a patent is a good idea for my latest product?
The following answers are provided by members of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
1. If There Isn’t Already an Existing Patent
More often than not, your idea is likely not original. In fact, there’s a very high chance that someone is either already monetizing your exact idea or already has earned a patent. To avoid wasting your time and money, conduct thorough research to see if you in fact invented something that doesn’t already exist.
2. When Your Product Is Fully Developed
You’ll regret it if you rush to get protection for an underdeveloped product. If your idea, concept or invention is at an early stage of development, your protection won’t extend to further development that renders your product more useful — and you’ll have to shell out the cash for another round of patents again. Wait for product-market fit, and then file.
3. If It’s Commercially Viable
It is important to ensure that your idea is commercially viable and likely to sell before you go through the process of getting a patent. There have been countless amounts of ideas that have failed in the marketplace, leading the creator to spend thousands of dollars and time for no reason. Make sure the idea will be a success before protecting it!
4. If Your Product is Easily Duplicated
Only patent things that have the potential to be easily duplicated and are not likely to change. Patents for things like software aren’t worth your time or money because the industry moves fast, and it’s likely that your patent will be outdated by the time it’s done.
5. If Your Product Passes These Three Questions
1. Is my product truly one of a kind? 2. Will I change the design in the next three to five years? 3. Will my product life cycle last more than five years? A patent will cost at least $10,000, so look at the ROI before moving forward, especially if the design or market may change.
6. When You’ve Calculated Your ROI
Who doesn’t want to be a patent holder? As with many things in legal, you will get more protection the more you spend, which of course will add up. If you’re in a land grab and absolutely need to acquire users before competitors do, your time and money is probably better spent in product and marketing. Know your limited resources, and look at the ROI.
7. If the Timing Is Right
Keep in mind that a provisional patent application can only be filed up to one year following the date of the first sale, offer for sale, public use or publication of the invention. As a result, be strategic when you hit any of those four triggers as the one-year countdown will start ticking as soon as you hit any of them.
8. If You Are Ready for a Costly Litigation
Generally speaking, I feel that intellectual property protection is grossly overrated by entrepreneurs. It tends to be much more distracting and costly than the true value of having a patent. Therefore, unless you are ready to defend your patent with a war chest of money (patent litigation is extremely expensive), I would instead focus on executing your business plan and making customers happy.