If you read the previous article in this series, Why Inventors Should Not Rely On Their Own Search, you know that before you file a provisional patent application, you should do a comprehensive search of the U.S. Patent Office and other U.S. and/or international databases. A patent agent/attorney will do this for their clients, or you can have a trusted confidant, (who won’t take your idea for their own), work with you to complete it.
Prepare yourself, you are very likely to find a similar product, and that is a good thing.
It’s a good thing because it means that someone else has also recognized that there is a problem which requires a solution. Ideally your solution, or some aspect of it, is either better than theirs, or distinctly different, which makes it possible to submit a provisional patent application for it.
At this point, you may think you know what the patentable element is, and are ready to file a provisional, but you’re not there yet, and here’s why.
Your goal in patenting an invention is to make money by turning it into a real product. It won’t do you any good to file a provisional application for something that isn’t in a viable commercial market. If you’re considering filing a provisional, it means that you’re ready to talk to some manufacturers, begin to raise additional capital, and essentially start telling strangers about your idea.
Here’s how the expertise of a patent attorney or patent agent will ease this process for you.
First, you need to be able to describe this idea in enough detail so that someone else can make one, based solely on your description. A good patent attorney/agent will guide you through this process.
Second, you will need to have a conversation with them about the demand for this product in the market. Without tipping your hand to what your invention is to the general public, have you determined that there is a sizeable enough demand that will purchase enough of these items to sustain a business? Before you invest additional funds to find this out and continue down the patent process, it’s in your best interest to have a serious conversation about this.
Third, you need to consider any and all safety issues with your invention. Depending on the type of invention you have, it’s likely that you will need to hire a Safety Engineer before you investigate manufacturing options.
The budget for patent agents/attorneys to file provisional patents can vary from $1,500 to $5,000, but this isn’t a case where you want to shop around for the cheapest price. It’s important to find a professional who prides themselves on submitting comprehensive documentation the first time, increasing the likelihood of getting a patent to issue down the road.
Provisional patent applications allow you to say you are “patent pending”, but they won’t let you stop infringers who can start selling your idea. Subsequently filing a nonprovisional patent application and having it issue as a patent has the “teeth” to do that, and is also necessary if you’re thinking of licensing your invention to a major corporation. More about nonprovisional patent applications in the next article.