You will find many pitfalls in the process of inventing. As Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” One of the most significant challenges most modern inventors encounter, is a lack of knowledge or incomplete knowledge about practical aspects of their work.
Inventors need to know several things to be truly successful. From the importance of confidentiality agreements, to doing a patent search, to understanding when an invention is obvious, inventors should seek to educate themselves on some basics in invention law. Here is a list of five essential things every inventor needs to know about patent laws.
The Need for Speed
Patent law requires that the person who files first, be awarded the patent. Patent rights are granted to the inventor who presents the invention or idea first, and not to the person who claims to be the first to invent a new idea, technology, plant, or process. It harmonizes with how patent rights are awarded in other parts of the world.
Patents Give Temporary Monopolies
As an inventor, you don’t have to obtain a patent to use, make, or sell innovations in most states. However, you don’t have legal ammunition to prevent other people from commercializing the innovation if you don’t have a patent. Note that copycats can take the innovation to another state if the original inventor has not secured patent coverage in that state. Utility and plant patents typically expire 20 years after the date they were filed. Design patents expire after 14 years after the issuance of the license.
Patents are issued to one person, or many who invented the claimed technology, process, or plant. That is unlike trademarks that are granted to businesses. If a company wants to earn an ownership stake in a patent, it should get a written assignment of rights from the inventors of the patent. That doesn’t prevent businesses from buying patents from other businesses or individuals. Authorities must make sure a company owns the rights it claims to own. They don’t approve companies that don’t have the proper assignments of inventions.
Don’t Seek Patents if You Fear Being Specific
Most inventors don’t want their applications to be accurate. Such inventors wish to have a full patent so their rights are not narrowed. People who fear to be specific should not seek patents because patent laws require the inventor to be precise during the patent application process. Unless you keep the invention a trade secret, a patent will not be suitable if you don’t want details getting in the way of narrowing the rights. Inventors should note that the broader they define their invention, the more difficult it becomes to get patents. That is because patent laws and many intellectual property laws require the inventor to particularly and accurately identify their unique creations. You need to describe how to use the invention without undue experimentation.
Increasing the Essence of Provisional Patents
Patent laws and regulations allow inventors to file for two types of applications, which are the non-provisional and provisional patents. A provisional application is a shorter application than the former, which enables inventors to file fast to create the all-essential date priority for award and patent purposes.
Provisional patent applications are applicable when an inventor is working on an invention. You have to file the most recent and complete claim you have that describes the invention you currently have as you work with the other parts before you are done with the invention. Provisional patent applications have a pendency of 12 months. Therefore, inventors can file a non-provisional patent application within 12 months.
Patent laws are essential in protecting your business from its competitors. If you don’t have a clear understanding of patent laws in your state, consider consulting a registered patent attorney to sort you out. Don’t rely on old books and online searches because some of the information found there can be misleading.
Author Information: Eileen O’Shanassy is a freelance writer and blogger based out of Flagstaff, AZ. She writes on a variety of topics and loves to research and write. She enjoys baking, biking, and kayaking. Check her out on Twitter at @eileenoshanassy.