What are they?

A patent is a legal document that grants legal protection of intellectual property to an inventor. Ideas must be considered “new” and “non-obvious”. There are a two types of patents: Utility and Design. A utility patent protects specific functional aspects of an idea. A design patent is useful for protecting what an idea looks like.

How long are they good for?

Patents are typically granted for 20 years from date of file. However they require periodic maintenance fees in order to stay valid.

Why should I consider getting one?

Utility patents typically provide more long-term value than design patents. The patent is useful in deterring others from copying your idea for fear of legal consequences. The patent can also is useful in building financial value in your company and open up potential revenue streams such as licensing.

What’s the catch?

Getting a patent is a great achievement. However, you still have to be able to afford the costs of litigation in order to protect your idea. This can become very expensive.

When should I get one?

When you’re getting started, you can file a provisional patent application. This essentially grants you 1 year of protection while you develop and test your idea. It also allows you to claim “patent pending” status.

Consult with your patent attorney about timing for filing the full patent. This is typically done once an idea has been proven through a feasibility study or visualized through an ideation process.

What is in a patent?

  • Title
  • Abstract
  • Description
  • Imagery
  • Claims
    • The claims are the most important part. The explicitly state what is and isn’t protected by the patent. Patents are made up of independent claims and dependent claims. There is usually 1 or more independent claims and several dependent claims per independent claim.

What is Prior Art?

Prior art is any evidence that your idea or part of your idea is already public knowledge. This suggests that your idea is not “new or non-obvious”, which is essential to getting a patent.

Prior art is not limited to products. An idea doesn’t have to be commercialized to be considered prior art, it just has to be publicly known. This could mean a publication, a presentation at an event, or a previous patent filing (even if it was never used).

Just because something is considered prior art, doesn’t mean you can’t use that idea in your product. Consult with your patent attorney to determine if there are any related active patents that you would infringe on.