he Maida Law Firm
Like having a baby, the patenting process starts with great difficulties and expenses, and like children, the difficulties and expenses of patents continue to grow over a long period of time. Unlike children poorly planned patent applications are seldom worth the effort. To earn money from a patent you must know your resources and plan accordingly.
Know your field:
The vast majority of valuable patents come from experts in the field (experts include scientists, engineers, or experienced entrepreneurs). If you have a great idea in a field that you don’t know, find a friend or partner with experience in the field and discuss the idea with him. Often an idea that seems brilliant to the uninitiated already exists or is impractical for reasons that are not obvious.
Once you’ve found a good, novel and practical idea, know how you will make money from the idea. Developing and marketing a new product defending your monopoly through patent litigation are extremely expensive and risky. If you are an independent inventor or a small entrepreneur you should definitely consider selling or licensing your invention.
While working for a large international law firm, I had a client who brought a patent portfolio (accepted patents in the US, EPO, China and Japan) to a large car maker. Quickly looking over the details of the patent, the company representative told him, “This is exactly the technology we need. But we aren’t going to pay you royalties. We have hundreds of top notch lawyers on staff and if you take us to court you’ll go bankrupt long before you can win a settlement.”
Of course, they’re right. Nevertheless, we advised our client that bankrupting even a little company through litigation can be very expensive. Furthermore, if the car maker wants exclusive rights to the technology, they need to make a deal with the patent holder, not break him. With this more realistic basis, they started negotiations.
Many inventors spend a few thousand dollars and a lot of time filing a patent, but are unprepared for the cost of patent prosecution. One result of this mistake is losing your investment in the patent. Even worse this can lead to permanently losing rights to your invention because without prosecution the patent application will be published but not granted making idea into public domain. For more details on patent planning see my previous blog “Patent Costs Timetable for the Independent Inventor – Be Prepared Before You Draft.”
Know your limits:
If you are thorough and organized you can probably write and file your own provisional application (although it is recommended that you show it to a patent agent/attorney to check if it is enabling). A non-provisional patent application should only be written by an experienced professional. Self written patents are often invalid and result in loss of money and may result in loss of control of the invention. Even if a self written patent is valid, a well written patent will save time in prosecution thereby saving money in the long run.