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When Should You File a Patent Application?

Guest post by Mark Terry, a registered patent attorney.

The U.S. Patent Office’s first-to-file system 

Upon conceiving of an idea or invention, it is highly recommended that you do not wait too long to file a patent application. The reason for this is the first-to-file patent system at the U.S. Patent Office, which means that whoever files for a given invention first, will receive the patent for that invention, even if that person is not the first to invent. Therefore, time is of the essence when thinking about protecting your idea or invention. It is important to note, however, that first-to-file does not mean that you will certainly receive a patent. It simply means you are first in line to prosecute your patent application at the U.S. Patent Office. 

The product development process

Continuous product development and innovation are necessary to the success of any business in today’s competitive market environment. It is important to recognize that this can be a lengthy and expensive process with many trial and errors along the way. In order for an idea or invention to be patentable, it must meet the criteria of being novel and unique. In the inception stage, innovations must be treated as a secret and protected as such so they can be patented at a later time. Subsequent research and development, including the creation of prototypes will further mature the concept. Once the final product is completed, it is time to introduce it to the market. In this stage, intellectual property (IP) rights play a crucial role in facilitating access to providers of early-stage capital. IP ownership can also help in making the business more attractive to potential investors and have a stronger negotiation position.  

Filing the patent application

Choosing when to file for a patent is a critical decision. If you wait too long, someone else might file before you. However, filing too early can add a lot of unnecessary costs to your company. Deciding when to file is a combination of business and legal factors. A good point in time to file a patent application is once the idea is in the developing stages, rather than just a general concept. The reason for this is that feedback from customers and investors regarding your prototype might completely change the product. The original patent application will not protect the updated product, only the details that are described in the filed patent application. 

IPEG Corp. Story

A great example of a patent application filed in the early stage of development is one filed by our client, IPEG Corp. The invention, a locator device for generating buried asset data, was originally filed in 2017 in the early stage of product development. See below a picture of a patent drawing for this patent application. The claimed invention is useful in helping utility companies locate buried utility lines (buried assets) easier and faster. The invention provides “a single locator device that performs the functions of two conventional locator devices”, making the process more economic, and also more effective. The invention reduces the complexity and weight of the previous devices that were used.  prototyping company usa

Gym Bib Story

In another example, our client, the Gym Bib, filed for a patent application later in the development process, once prototypes had been produced. This design patent application was granted in 2019 for the invention of a gym towel to wear around the neck (see below for the design drawings).  product manufacturing company usa   As these examples demonstrate, deciding when to file a patent application is an important decision involving both legal and business aspects. Filing early has the benefit that the inventor will not lose their right to apply for a patent. Filing later in the process also has its benefits, such as less costs and having a more finalized product to be patented. Whatever your case, it is important to discuss it in detail with a patent attorney.   At the Plus IP Firm, we have experience with patent applications for a wide range of inventions and industries. For more information on costs, timing and the entire patent process, schedule a free consultation with patent attorney Mark Terry   

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