Protecting your intellectual property is very important. On the other hand, it’s very difficult and costly to get an idea patented. There are two clear sides to this debate, and it’s important to consider both of them. Here’s what you need to consider before you decide whether or not to patent an idea.
Why you should patent your idea
So, we’ve seen the downsides. But what about the upsides? The fact is that once you have a patent in place, your idea is protected. Only you can profit from it, and you could even successful sue anyone who used it for their own gain. This protection lasts for twenty years, is pretty robust, and can easily be reapplied for at the end of the period.
Patenting is also a lot easier for companies that have already established their ideas and have the capital and time to do it. For example, DropBox and Facebook are two companies that have successfully patented part of their products. If you are already well-established, there is no harm to be had from patenting your idea. There is a little caveat, however: you only have one year from your idea’s public disclosure to file a patent in the US. This means that you might not be able to patent your first idea, but will be able to patent things that come later.
You should also consider filing a provisional application before you do anything else. A provisional application kind of reserves your place so that you get a little bit more time to act before the year’s deadline runs out. This is a great way to get started on patenting or at least get some time to think about whether you want to do it or not.
Why you shouldn’t patent your idea
The first big reason why you shouldn’t get a patent for your idea is the fact that it is very expensive to do it. This could take away valuable capital that you need in order to actually get your idea into reality. Whether you have an idea for an app, a new type of business, or a new product, you will need funding to launch it. If you only get partway through the application and run out of cash, you won’t be in a good position.
The process of filing, examining, and then granting a patent also takes several years. This means that while you are waiting for your patent to come through, you could have already been making money from your idea. In fact, you might find that you wait for a long time only for the patent to not be granted, or for someone else to come up with a similar idea and beat you to market. The time issue also means that you might find your patent is outdated and doesn’t apply any more by the time it is granted. On paper, an idea might seem great. In practice, you may find you need to make changes – which will make your patent inapplicable.
It’s also worth noting that only half of patent applications are successful, so the data isn’t necessarily on your side. On top of all this, your idea might not even be eligible for patenting. The idea cannot be an abstract one – it has to be more rooted in definite terms. If it is abstract, then it has to be some kind of innovation on an already existing idea. You should check the terms for patenting very carefully before you apply if you do choose to.