What do I need to do to protect my idea/invention?
First of all, if you believe:
your idea is a brand new idea; a why didn’t I think of that? sort of thing, or a Wow! that’s a different way of doing things;
your invention represents an inventive advance over anything of a similar nature that already exists;
the product, process or service can and will be commercially or industrially utilised; and
what you have got is potentially valuable;
… it is critical for you to take positive steps to protect the intellectual property (I.P.) Rights to your idea/invention and you should definitely read the next FAQ: What should I do to protect my I.P. Rights?
What should I do to protect my I.P. Rights?
Working on the conclusion that you have something worth protecting:
Please stop talking about your idea with friends, colleagues, employees or subject matter experts until you have a Confidentiality Agreement that you and they can sign. You can find templates and examples of both Confidentially and Non-Disclosure agreements on the Internet. If you decide to talk about the specifics of your idea with us we have a template we will complete with you before our discussions.
If you believe the commercial value of your idea is significant, or there is a risk that some details of your idea may have become public knowledge (Internet forums or social media) we recommend that you get some legal advice from a Patent Attorney first up.
Don’t approach companies or potential investors who you think might want to buy your idea or be a partner in developing or commercialising it (wait untill you know if you have I.P. Rights that need protecting).
Don’t publicly display a prototype or demonstrate your invention. Don’t circulate or distribute any technical description, drawing or any discussion of your concept or idea.
In the next FAQ we will talk about how you can find out if a similar or identical product, process, service or IT application is already in the market place.
How can I find out if my idea/invention already exists?
You will need to search the world for signs that your idea might already be a reality. Why? Because once you start the process of protecting your I.P. Rights there are significant financial outlays to meet, so you want to be reasonably confident that your investment will pay dividends and you need know the market place for your product or service.
Clearly the most effective place to start your search is the Internet and its many search engines.
With your idea in mind:
make a list of key words and specific phrases that might describe what your idea/invention will do or deliver;
make a list of words you might include in you product’s title and the brand names of potentially competing products
make a list of words you want to excluded from your search results,
write the words into a list with combinations of three or four words and tick words off as you exhaust each search pattern
complete a systematic Internet search using Google Advanced Search and/or the equivalent in other search engines for the words or phrases in your lists. Use your exclusions to limit the results. Be persistent here and go pages deep not just the first page or two
if you encounter an online retail outlet that might sell a similar product or service check the whole site’s inventory so you get a feel for what is available in the market place and what the price points are for your sort of product or service
if your idea is a product you may also consider searches of ebay and a site called alibaba
save any pages of interest in a separate favourites folder on your browser for further reference and also start the habit of keeping a journal of your search results
Understand that at this point you have only searched the last few years of product history.
If your idea is a repeat of a product or invention from last century or the subject of a patent application, that was published somewhere in the world which may or may not have been granted, you will not be able to claim I.P. Rights for the idea. There is a term that covers this in I.P. registration, it is called ‘Prior Art’.
Our next FAQ will talk about searching Patent databases for existing patents or patent applications that cover part or all of your idea or invention.
How do I search for existing patents around the world?
You can complete an initial search of patent databases aimed at finding the obvious connections to your idea/invention.
This is where you might find ‘prior art’ that shows that someone else owns the idea or at the least has already documented the idea in a patent application. As an individual this might be where your journey comes to a close…
If you are a business or company and believe that the idea is worthy of commercialisation you might consider seeking a licence to use the I.P. Please read your idea in the market-place
The two major repositories for patent information are the United Nations based World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). IP Australia also maintains a database of Australian patent documents. All three sites are reasonable friendly in terms of help pages on completing searches.
As with your Internet searches you should compile a list of search words and phrases and work through them systematically. Again you can use exclusions in advanced search modes to strip out unwanted results. As you read these patent documents you will start to get a sense of the legal terms and jargon that need to be used to make a patent description succinct in a judicial sense (watertight and defensible).
Record the details in your journal (at least a brief description of the invention, the name of applicant and the document or patent numbers) for any patent document that you feel contains similarities to your idea/invention. You can register as a user and store your search patterns and results on each of the database sites, but do back up your finds in your journal. We suggest that you print out or save the summary details of anything relevant.
If your searches don’t find anything that matches your idea/invention it might be time to find a Patent Attorney to discuss what is involved in making a Provisional Patent Application. We strongly suggest that you don’t lodge a provisional patent application without legal advice.
However, patent applications are reasonably expensive and the journey to being granted patents in individual countries is long and involves a significant capital outlay … it may be the right time to consider whether your idea or invention will yield a return on that investment.
What’s involved in getting a patent?
Do I need a patent?
Can I sell my idea rather than develop it?
How do I know I can trust Onsong Innovation and/or your associates?
Do you buy or broker ideas?
I’m very busy, can you do everything for me if I offer you a partnership or share of my idea/invention?
Do I need an ABN, ACN?
How long does it take to develop an idea/invention?
How much money does it take to develop an idea/invention?
How can I save money in developing my idea/invention?
Can I get financial assistance to develop my idea/invention from the government?