The innovation process is complex, iterative, and often undefined. This makes it hard to know when you’re ready to file for initial patent protection. Here are a few tips to think about what stage you should file.
An inventor recently asked me the following:
“I’m working on the general way we’re going to solve the problem. We have a couple of different approaches. How close to the final product do we need to be before moving forward with patent steps?”
Here’s my answer.
From a legal perspective, you have to have enough information to teach someone skilled in that technology how to make and use your invention
From a design perspective, you need more than an abstract idea about the problem and solution. You should have a workable design concept that is detailed enough to identify the significant component parts, structures, and functions
From a novelty perspective, it can be helpful to think of your design as a combination of four conditions:
Patents are useful once you have identified your point of novelty. This is typically an appropriate stage for a provisional patent application, so you get the earliest priority date on your point of novelty.
If you identify further incremental improvements throughout the design process, then you can either 1) file incremental provisional patent applications (if the incremental improvements are critical or highly advantageous), or 2) wait to incorporate the incremental improvements into a future non-provisional patent application.
Here are a few more considerations:
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Legal Disclaimer: This general information does not establish a legal relationship with any attorneys or law firm without a written and signed legal representation engagement agreement.
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