In the previous post – K – Keep Researching and Developing Your Knowledge – I provided links to a variety of resources I have found beneficial. I strongly believe that success as an inventor depends upon continually researching and developing your knowledge of resources.

Now is a good point to discuss patenting and, more especially, patent research. The topic of patents raises a chorus of voices from inventors: ranging from those who feel patents are a waste of time, effort and capital, on the one extreme, to those who hold that having an unpatented invention is valueless.

I believe patents are generally valuable to an inventor and a must if you wish to license the product, but there are cases where proceeding without a patent makes sense. In situations where a genre of products is “crowded” with existing patents, obtaining a narrowly defined patent is of little value. It then might make sense to proceed without a patent – with the risk you might infringe a patent – or to simply find another product.

Doing patent research early in the process is wise for a couple of reasons:

• You may find a patent already exists for a product very similar to your invention
• By examining similar patented products, you may be able to better differentiate yours

Knowing what is already out there helps you to decide how or if to proceed with your product, possibly saving you thousands of dollars.

If there is already an issued patent very similar to yours, you are unlikely to obtain a strong patent. You might consider offering to buy the existing patent from the inventor. The inventor may have spent thousands on a patent and then thousands more on unsuccessful marketing efforts He or she might be willing to sell their IP rights to you at a reasonable cost.

Also, comparing and contrasting your product with similar patented products can help you to add features or make structural changes that will differentiate it and, therefore, give you a better chance of obtaining a strong patent.

In the next post M – More About Patents, we’ll dig into the subject in more detail.