Protecting your ideas and inventions
When it comes to patents, there are various options. Which of these is the most appropriate depends on whether you need temporary or long-term protection, the nature of what you are trying to protect, and where in the world you want protection. At Forge IP, we can help you determine the best options for your situation.
Now more than ever, when you invent something new, it is critical that you obtain a patent “filing date” as soon as possible. Though not always the case for some older patents, the law has changed in recent years — today, the first to file a patent application owns the patent rights to an invention, regardless of who claims to have invented it first. Easier and less expensive to prepare and file than a full “utility application” (see below), a provisional application is a quick, low-cost way of planting your flag in the sand and obtaining this early filing date so that others don’t preempt you.
Perhaps you need time to complete a prototype or proof of concept before deciding whether to invest substantial money, or you want some time to try to sell the idea so you don’t have to. Maybe you intend to further fine-tune the invention before filing your utility application, or you need time to seek additional funding to do so. Or maybe you will be disclosing your idea at a trade show or academic symposium, and you just need to get something on file quick before you do. A provisional application can be used to protect you in all of these scenarios. And, it allows you to use the phrase “Patent Pending” on your product or marketing materials.
A utility patent is what enables you to prevent others from copying your invention. The utility patent was created as a bargain to encourage the creation and public disclosure of new advances in technology in return for the exclusive right to practice those inventions for a certain period of time. Therefore, when you describe your invention in a patent application, the patent that issues from it gives you a legal monopoly for that technology for a period of twenty years from the filing date of your application. During this time, no one can use your invention without your permission.
If others (“infringers”) do copy your invention during this time, you can use the patent to either stop them from doing so (and thereby protect your exclusive market), or to seek damages in the form of royalties or lost profits resulting from the sales of the infringer’s products. For this reason, your patent should be as broad as possible so that it can be used to stop those who unfairly try to “design around” your patented invention. At the same time, your patent cannot be too broad, such that it covers technologies that already exist, which an infringer can use to try to invalidate your patent. Therefore, it is extremely important that each patent be carefully crafted to cover just the right scope.
Sometimes, the commercial value of your product is tied not to the structure or operation of a device, but rather, to the ornamental design of the product. Everything from fashion accessories (such as shoes, eyeglasses, and jewelry), to computer displays (such as fonts, icons, and graphical user interfaces), to product or packaging designs (such as automobile bodies and beverage containers) have designs that can be protected in this way. For those products where the “look and feel” of the product is the commercial value that competitors will try to copy, design patents can be a valuable form of protection.
Did you know that plant innovations are subject to a variety of different types of protection? Either the Plant Patent Act or the Plant Variety Protection Act may be applicable, depending on the type of plant you’ve created. Additionally, ordinary utility patents can sometimes be sought, depending on exactly what aspects of the discovery you think you may want to protect. Forge IP can help you wade through these various potential options and determine the right form (or forms) of protection for your botanical innovations.
Forge IP has a network of agents around the world, with whom we have established longstanding relationships. We work together with these agents to shepherd your intellectual property through various foreign patent, trademark, and copyright offices to secure your IP rights wherever you need them.