If you read the previous article in the series, “Are You Ready To Talk To a Patent Agent?”, you know that before you can apply for a provisional patent, you need to do a comprehensive search of the U.S. Patent Office and other U.S. and/or international databases. That is something I do for my clients, or you can have a trusted confidant (who won’t take your idea for their own), work with you to complete it.
Prepare yourself, you are very likely to find a similar product, and that is a good thing.
It’s a good thing because it means that someone else has also recognized that there is a problem which requires a solution. Ideally your solution, or some aspect of it, is either better than theirs, or distinctly different that we can submit a provisional patent application for it.
At this point, you may think you know what the patentable element is, and are ready to file a provisional patent, but you’re not there yet, and here’s why.
Your goal in patenting an invention is to make money by turning it into a real product. It won’t do you any good to file a provisional patent for something that isn’t in a viable commercial market. If you’re considering filing a provisional patent, it means that you’re ready to talk to some manufacturers, begin to raise additional capital, and essentially start telling strangers about your idea.
Here’s how my expertise as an engineer and inventor will ease this process for you.
First, you need to be able to describe this idea in enough detail so that someone else can make one, based solely on your description. I guide my clients through this process.
Second, we need to have a conversation about the demand for this product in the market. Without tipping your hand to what your invention is to the general public, have you determined that there is a sizable enough demand that will purchase enough of these items to sustain a business? Before you invest additional funds to find this out and continue down the patent process, it’s in your best interest to have a serious conversation with me about this.
Third, you need to consider any and all safety issues with your invention. Depending on the type of invention you have, it’s likely that when it is under the protection of a provisional patent, you will need to hire a Safety Engineer before you investigate manufacturing options.
The budget for me to create a professionally drafted provisional patent application is $3k for a simple mechanical invention and up to $5k for software. I take additional time when preparing the documentation for a provisional patent to make sure that we are able to get a nonprovisional patent down the road. The provisional patents I file for my clients are done right the first time, and that means a thorough process upfront, which saves you unexpected expense from needing to refile the application. This also includes me following up with you in the year after the provisional application is filed to make sure you meet deadlines for filing a nonprovisional application.
Provisional patent applications allow you to say you are “patent pending’, but they are not strong enough to fight against infringers who can start selling your idea. Subsequently filing a nonprovisional patent has the “teeth” to do that, and is necessary if you’re thinking of licensing your invention to a major corporation. More about nonprovisional patents in the next article.