So, you’ve just had an incredible idea that you think could change the world. Whether it’s a new gadget or an improved way of doing something, where do you turn to and what’s next after that ‘Aha!’ moment strikes?
Domenica Hartman from Hartman Global Intellectual Property Law sat down to walk us through the process of taking your earth-shattering invention from simply an idea to store shelves and homes across the globe.
First, write down everything.
“Document, document, document!” said Hartman. “It’s very important for you as an inventor to document your idea and everything that is associated with your invention. You’ve got to get it all down in writing.”
Along with helping to analyze your work, keeping good records will prove useful when it comes to filing for patents and marketing your invention. Taking detailed notes, working out the purpose and description of the idea, and making sketches and diagrams of the invention are essential steps in the process towards getting your invention patented.
Second, research your invention.
“The research that an inventor might do at home may not be as exhaustive as the research that we’re able to do here, but it’s really important to see what’s out there,” Hartman said. “You’ll want to look around, Google the idea, and ask yourself a few questions.”
The basic questions that an inventor should seek to answer are: Is the invention new? Is it obvious, or is it an obvious improvement over the state-of-the-art?
“If you can answer those questions and you feel you’ve got something new, talk to a patent or intellectual property attorney,” recommended Hartman.
Third, file for provisional patent protection.
Until a few years ago, United States patent law stated that patents go to the first person to invent something. Now, the U.S. Patent & Trade Office aligned themselves with the rest of the world in that patents are granted to the individual who files for the patent first.
“A provisional patent application will establish your priority date and that you are the first to file,” described Hartman. “It will give you 12 months to flesh out your idea and it will very clearly establish your priority date to that patent around the world. That’s the beauty of it. It’s something that can be done very quickly, efficiently, and economically.”
“In order to retain future foreign rights that provisional application must be in place before any public disclosure of that idea or invention. So, don’t bring your invention to the barbeque and show anybody and don’t go into Chicago to a ‘Shark Tank’ event without that provisional application! That’s extremely important.”
Fourth, develop a prototype and refine your invention.
After a provisional patent application has been filed, inventors then have twelve months to develop their invention and then, ultimately, file for a utility patent.
“Develop prototypes and get out there to see where the idea is going to go because the clock is ticking,” Hartman advises. “You’ve got to move forward with it whether it’s prototypes, marketability, branding, or refining. In my 30 years of doing this I’ve seen that, by the end of that 12 month period, there are always tweaks and changes, and that’s good because after that 12 months is when we go in and fine tune everything.”
This step in the process is often the most important because during this time the inventor gets the chance to gauge consumer reaction to the product. Hartman stressed the importance of coming in with an open mind, eliminating any preconceived notions and removing the emotional tie to the invention in order to see what works best through honest feedback by consumers.
Fifth, and finally, apply for a utility patent.
“Generally, at this point we convert to a utility patent and that’s when, hopefully, the inventor has passed a threshold and we’re looking to maybe license, sell, or assign the invention,” said Hartman of this final step in the process of patenting your invention. “We’ve reached the point where we can now work to make some money for the inventor.”
It’s no small feat to see your idea through this entire process, but if your ‘Aha’ moment brings about an invention worth patenting and marketing it will be well worth the time, effort, and money that goes into bringing your idea to life.
If you have an idea that merits further research and development, and you’re looking to take the next step, visit: www.hartmanglobal-ip.com/