Innovation starts with an idea. And when this idea is pursued, it can be turned into an invention that has the potential of becoming a brand new product which can then be launched into the marketplace!
Sounds easy, right? In reality, it is not.
The process of taking an innovation from an idea to a marketable product takes
time, effort and money. And, if caution is not exercised, you can end up with little, or even nothing. Proper research and evaluation will save you time, effort and money and often, heartbreak and disappointment.
Think about this for a moment.
You have a fantastic idea and you believe that this idea can be turned into a new invention, however, before you jump ahead, consider the following key questions:
-Does your invention idea have commercial potential?
-Does your invention idea actually solve problems for people other than you?
-Do you know for sure that there isn't a similar product in the market?
-Do you know what it would cost to take your invention idea from concept to product?
If your answers to the any of the above questions is "no", "maybe" or "I don’t know" (which would be the case for most of us), you will want to start with a detailed patent search. It is also advisable to have your invention idea evaluated for commercial merit before moving forward with filing a patent application.
Well, the patent process itself is expensive and takes time and there are no guarantees that you will even get a patent. And taking a product to market after getting a patent is even more expensive and takes even more time. So it is best to get as much information as possible before you push forward. In fact, experts strongly recommend that you start with a detailed patent search that includes a legal opinion and follow that with an evaluation of your invention idea for marketability.
Sure, you can conduct a patent search on your own. You can fire up your browser and start at www.uspto.gov or you can go to Google patents and dig through the material available. It may sound simple, but in actuality, it isn’t.
Realize that a patent search you conduct on your own, is, just a basic search. A patent search that includes a legal opinion carries more weight than your independently conducted patent search. Why, you may ask? How does a patent search that includes a legal opinion differ from my regular patent search? Why does this type of a patent search carry more weight?
A legal opinion about the patentability of your invention idea will provide an objective analysis and explanation of the search result instead of leaving you to figure out what the results mean and whether you should move forward or not. Such a legal opinion can save you money and time by helping you decide whether it makes sense to apply for a patent for your invention idea or not.
Furthermore, if you decide to proceed with filing a patent application, the legal opinion can increase the chances of success and can also decrease the cost, effort & number of prosecutions by highlighting elements of your invention that are, indeed, patentable. Lastly, a legal opinion can also provide potential defense support in case of any lawsuits are brought against you in the future for patent infringement.
If you are lucky, the results of a patent search can be clear and you will know pretty much right away if you should proceed or not. However, more often than not, the results of a patent search are confusing, contradictory and not as obvious as we would like them to be. This is where a patent attorney’s objective legal opinion can make the difference between patentability and non-patentability and can provide insight as to whether you have a chance of being awarded a patent or not.
At Patent Services USA, all our patent searches carry the objective legal opinion of a licensed patent attorney (who can practice at the USPTO) behind it. If the patent search comes back negative (which means that a product idea similar to yours has not yet been patented), we make sure that your invention idea is evaluated before actually filing for the patent. This evaluation helps determine the commercial potential and marketability of your invention idea.
In fact, one of the more pressing questions we get asked often is whether one should file for a patent before an idea is evaluated for commercial viability or should one do a patent search and file an application and then evaluate the idea for commercial viability.
We believe that it is best to do the invention evaluation immediately after or, better yet, along with the patent search.
When it comes to invention research and evaluation, we follow guidelines and criteria that was established by the PIES System.
PIES stands for “Preliminary Innovation Evaluation System” and was developed by Dr. Gerald G. Udell at the University of Oregon in 1974 with funding provided by the National Science Foundation. PIES is currently in its 12th edition which was implemented in October 2006. PIES uses 45 different criteria to evaluate the commercial potential of your invention idea; these criteria are based on years of research and new product experience and provide a risk profile of your project along with the detailed strategy that you can use to take your product to the marketplace. Additionally, a PIES evaluation also provides support for developing future strategies and planning as you move along the process.
Of course, you can evaluate and research your invention idea and file for patent on your own, however, the USPTO recommends working with registered patent agent or attorney throughout the entire process. Here is a link on the USPTO website. Reputable patent services companies and agents are far more experienced in patent searches and invention evaluation and they have access to a wealth of resources to help you along the way. In addition, they will have well established processes and methodologies to make sure all bases are covered. You can use the USPTO website to search for a patent services company or a registered patent attorney.
After your patent is awarded, you will be ready to market your new product. The first option is to manufacture and distribute your product yourself. The second option is to license the rights to your product to another organization, either a manufacturer or distributor. If you choose to go with option 2, which is what most new inventors do, make sure that a non-compete clause is included in your agreement or contract. A non-compete clause will protect you if someone (possibly even the manufacturer or distributor you are working with) attempts to produce and market a similar product, or attempts to copy your idea! If in doubt, talk to your patent services company, or to your attorney.
As you embark on the process of taking your invention idea from concept to a real, marketable product, be sure to use your common sense and judgment before agreeing to work with an attorney, an agent or a patent services company.
Here are a few things to watch for:
Patent search without a patentability opinion by a patent attorney: A legal opinion is indispensable in helping you make a decision whether you should move forward with your invention idea or not. So it is best if an objective legal opinion is included with your patent search. If not, it may be time to look for another company.
Patent issuance guarantee: It is impossible for anyone to guarantee that a patent will be issued for your invention idea. Remember, the patent process is exhaustive, takes a long time and needs due diligence. And bear in mind that more often than, not an invention idea is simply not feasible as a potential product and therefore, a patent is not granted. If your selected company guarantees that you will be awarded a patent, walk away!
You are told that "your idea is 100% original & a sure-fire hit": It is difficult, albeit impossible, for an attorney, an agent, or a patent services company to decide on the potential of your invention idea immediately. In fact, established operators will perform a detailed patent search, provide a legal opinion and do a preliminary invention evaluation. Once the results are in, then only will they come to an objective conclusion about the patentability of your invention idea and whether you should move forward or not. So, if you are told that your idea is a sure-fire hit before going through the process, it is best to find someone else to work with!
Forms & Agreements: request copies of forms & agreements and review them. Better yet, show them to an attorney and get approval before you sign! If you get pushback, look elsewhere.
Read about potential scam alerts on the USPTO website.
It is definitely worth working with a reputable patent services company to handle your patent search and invention idea evaluation. Make sure the patent search includes an objective legal opinion and also make sure your selected company conducts an evaluation of your idea, preferably using PIES. Finally, thoroughly vet your selected company by researching them online, going through their reviews and contacting references before signing on the dotted line.