First Step Toward Patenting Your Invention: The Search

Perhaps you have an idea for a new product simmering in the back of your mind. You’ve done a few Google searches, but haven’t found anything similar. This makes you confident that you have stumbled upon the NEXT BIG THING.

Every day I talk to inventors who start their consultation with me by saying “I haven’t found anything like it.” And while that’s a good start, chances are that you haven’t been looking in the right places.

Before you invest additional money and resources, it’s the right time to find out definitively if your invention is unique, determine if there is a market for it, and explore how to make it better.

You should do a search online with a goal of finding two or three competitive products.  If you’re scared to do the search, that’s a good thing, because in my experience, it usually means you’re on the right track.

And yes, your goal should be to find other products in the market that are already attempting to solve the same problem as your invention. That demonstrates that a solution is actually needed.  And if there is a need by a large enough group of people, then you stand a far better chance of turning your invention into a profitable venture.

So come to me with examples of two or three other similar products, and after I sign a retainer agreement with you (which establishes the agent/client relationship) we will discuss every aspect of your product including drawings, mockups, and/or prototypes.

At this point, I’ll do a more thorough search of the U.S. Patent Office and other applicable databases in the United States and/or internationally.  I am determining if you have indeed created something unique, or if there are even more, similar patented products. That initial search is $1,500.

Thinking of doing the search of the Patent Office on your own? There are several downsides to this plan. Your emotional attachment to your invention will cloud your judgment, and you will steer away from finding other products that are similar. Although you have already identified a few other competitors, searching the U.S.  Patent Office is a more intense process.  I’ve worked with many inventors who have done their own search and ignored similar products that have already been patented because they don’t want to know that their idea isn’t as unique as they once thought it was.

However, if I do find even more similar products, all is not lost. I provide objective insight to help you compare yours with theirs, and we discuss strategies to improve your invention to make it patentable. Basically, we take your idea, ignore the parts that have already been incorporated into another patent or patents, and the remainder is your patentable invention.

Edisons Light Bulb

For example, did you know Thomas Edison did not invent the light bulb? Another inventor had already obtained a patent on the basic idea of a light bulb (creating a vacuum of air in a glass bulb, and the need for a graphite filament) but it was Edison who invented a patentable method to consistently attach the white-hot filament to the lead wires coming in the bulb, and to ensure a uniform diameter of the filament, which became the light bulb that changed the world.

After we have an invention that is truly unique and we’ve protected it with a provisional patent application, you will be able to share your idea with specific people with the goal of helping you get to the next step.

Once a provisional patent is on file, the clock starts ticking and you have one year to file a nonprovisional patent application.  Don’t worry, if you’re my client, I’ll remind you of upcoming deadlines.

Be prepared for a lot of work in that year.  You’ll have to conduct market research to assess demand and profitability, get set up with a manufacturer, and investigate funding sources.  If after that you determine that your idea is commercially viable, we will then more fully protect your idea with a US nonprovisional and perhaps even international patent applications.

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