Clients often think they must patent their product idea. This is not always the most sensible thing to do…
Protecting your idea (intellectual property) is of course very important but patenting can be very expensive. Often clients are not at an appropriate stage to effectively patent their idea anyway. A patent is a legal document and as such should be created by a patent attorney to ensure it will stand up when tested. There is no point trying to do a patent yourself on the cheap if this could allow someone to circumvent your claims. The very simplest UK patent for a simple design will be in excess of £1000. Full European patents can average at approximately £30,000 and worldwide protection only increases costs further not to mention the ongoing maintenance costs for all patents.
If you decide the patent route is the best for your invention then it may be wise to develop and prototype it first so that the patent application can include all the design details necessary. Idea Reality can help with this. It is quite likely that the design could change and improve considerably during this development and this could render an early application obsolete. Remember you are automatically covered in the UK by Design Right as soon as you create your ideas so always document things as you go and follow the steps to protect your IP in our Patents & IP section. If your plan is to sell or licence your idea to 3rd parties then a patent is likely to be key.
Inventors can perform their own patent searches to find out if their idea has already been patented or if others have protected similar ideas. A good place to start is Espacenet. It is then recommended to pay a patent attorney to carry out a comprehensive search to make sure you are not heading down a dangerous route. Patent searches should be done regardless of intention to patent an idea or not. This should of course be done along side Google searches and other general market research.
Another question inventors should ask themselves is “can I afford to fight a patent infringement battle”? The costs of a legal battle are likely to exceed the costs of the patent application with no guarantees of success. Large corporations have the resources to fight these battles but small companies and inventors are unlikely to be able to compete with a corporation’s resources. At least if you have a patent this acts as a warning and enables you to fight should you wish.
There is a good argument for investing the time, effort and money you would have put into the patent application to get your product developed and to market first. Establishing your product or brand as the original and best can often be of greater value. Once established and money being generated from sales then future developments and improved versions could be properly patented and funded. All the while your competitors are playing catch up. Remember they cannot patent an idea that is already existing, being sold or made public. This is known as ‘prior art‘. You should always ensure you can prove the idea or design was yours first. See our Patents & IP section.
Once your idea hits the market don’t just sit back. By being the first past the post and constantly developing and innovating can enable you to stay ahead of the curve. Whilst your competitor is figuring out how to compete with your product you can already be developing the next version.
All projects are different and warrant differing IP strategies. Officially registering your design with the IPO office may be enough. To find out the best route for your design get in touch with Idea Reality.
Fill in the contact form or email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will happily discuss your project and arrange a free consultation meeting.
This is an informative article only. The above is the opinion of Idea Reality Ltd and is not to be used without proper professional advice taking into account individual project circumstances.