Intellectual property lawyers see this issue often: people neglect to think about protecting their product before marketing it.
Let’s say your company created an innovative energy efficient product. Management and engineers are excited to spread the word. You and your colleagues attend a trade show and overindulge details about your new product to fellow industry innovators. This is a common mistake for two reasons:
- You may have compromised your company’s ability to sell the product in some countries.
- You may have waved certain rights by divulging product details.
You must patent an idea early in the process
The most important thing to note about patent protection is that it is highly time-sensitive. If you used the invention in public or showed it to a group of people at a conference, you have 12 months to file a provisional application for a patent. However, if you wish to sell the product internationally, you will need to apply for a patent before ever using the product in public.
The same rule applies to selling the product. You have 12 months from the date you first sold the product to apply for a patent. Without assistance from a professional, there are several pitfalls in the process that could cause major issues for your company. The patent must include specific product or process details. Without them, your patent could be useless, and you may not be able to sell the product.
But first, research it
You likely have already completed a patent search on your own, however, you may not know that your patent application will be judged on more than preexisting patents. Your patent application could also be rejected based on public sources of information, such as published research.
Do not forget an NDA
When it comes time to share the product details to industry leaders or venture capitalists, make sure you have a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) in place. Only tell confidential information when necessary and ask that the other person signs the NDA first. Leave out finetune details about the process or invention. Keep that information on a need-to-know basis. It is best to file for a patent application first because sharing your invention with a group of people may start the 12-month countdown to file the application.
With proper protections in place, such as patents and confidentiality agreements, you can safely place your invention in a position for success in the marketplace.