A lot of people have ideas, you may be one of few with a truly great idea and to protect that idea you need to patent it. A patent gives you the right to essentially have a monopoly on an idea, process or invention on a per country or jurisdiction basis. The usual protection length is 20 years from filing the patent. The most popular countries to get patent protection are United States, Europe and Japan with the United States usually considered the primary area that you need to get an idea patented and protected.
But you need to be really careful if you go that route.
For one thing, patents can cost in the thousands of dollars if you hire a patent lawyer to draft the patent application. A survey among small Canadian law firms in Canadian Lawyer Magazine discloses the average patent application cost at a staggering $4,3001.
It's a lot cheaper if you don't hire a lawyer, yet it usually recommended to go the lawyer route because you won’t have the expertise to:
-Avoid making the patent too narrow and giving away important rights (non-use and assignment clauses)
-Avoid making the patent application too broad and getting it rejected
And much more importantly, 97% of all patents never make any money2. And you will have to wait three years to get a patent examiner to review your application. The odds are highly stacked against you.
There is a very simple solution to this problem that is often ignored and unfortunately not recommended enough by patent lawyers, and that is to apply for a provisional patent instead - and hence the reason for my chosen title of this post.
This essentially allows you to protect your idea and iron out the details whether you want to file a full fledge patent application, for a small entity (i.e. small business/individual), it will only cost you $125 and should protect you for a year3. The complete fee schedule is available here, albeit a bit complicated on what items get charged:
If you are starting to line up potential customers and can clearly demonstrate real business value and sales revenues, then it is time to exercise the option of turning the provisional patent into a patent application.
A few good places to start the patent search to see if the idea is unique and novel:
- The World Intellectual Property database - http://www.wipo.int/portal/index.html.en
3. I am not a lawyer, so even though this is legal advice, this is not officially legal advice.