In the previous post – N – Next Steps – What to do Now? – we discussed that, upon completion of your patent search on USPTO.gov, you would find very few patents similar to your invention (unlikely), a fair number of patents (10 – 20), or quite a lot of patents that are similar. In the third case, it is wise to move to another idea or invention.
Let’s assume there are either very few or a moderate number of patents similar to your invention and formulate a patent strategy to go forward.
If money were no issue, then you would simply get with a patent attorney or agent and file a utility patent without much further thought. But, for most of us, money is a key issue, and our patent strategy must be crafted accordingly.
There are two paths forward to develop your product and get it into the marketplace:
1. Build a business around your product: patent it, develop it, manufacture it, and market it yourself
2. License it to a manufacturer, in exchange for royalties, and let them develop, manufacture it and market it for you
In the case of 1 above, get ready, because you may be taking on a great deal of financial risk. Are you financially prepared to support costs for patenting, developing the product, website, manufacturing, packaging, shipping and selling? If so, you will definitely want a solid utility patent. Find a good patent attorney or agent and follow his/her guidance in filing, first a provisional patent, or simply filing a utility patent.
If you are planning to license your product, you may wish to file a provisional patent application (PPA). The PPA costs little to file, is never examined by USPTO, and it gives you a one-year time frame before you must file the more expensive utility patent.
The PPA has low risk and buys you time to “shop” your product to different manufacturers to see if they are interested. If there is little interest or they see a “fatal flaw” in your product, you might avoid spending thousands pursuing a product that is unlikely to be successful. If there is strong interest, the licensee company might be willing to reimburse your patent filing expenses. Licensing is attractive because your risks and costs are low (they are transferred to the licensee) and their distribution channels are bound to be much better than yours.
We have covered patenting in some detail. In the next post –
P – Principles of Licensing – we will discuss licensing options and considerations.