So what is a patent? It is an exclusive right granted for an invention. It ensures that no one can copy the technology used to create the product you have invented. As the owner of the patented product, you can give permission or a licence to other parties to use this technology, though, and a patent can be sold to another person. It also has a limited timeline – patents can and do expire.
Securing a patent for a business idea or product is not a straightforward process. As an entrepreneur in a competitive industry, you need to protect your invention, but it’s a time-consuming and financial investment that you will be making; before doing so, and in order to increase your chances of getting a patent, you have to have a solid marketing plan in place and be certain that your product can be used by your customers, is innovative and unique.
There are lots of inventions that patents are granted for, from technological inventions to everyday kitchen items. An invention can be anything, such as a chemical process or a specific product. Many products contain several parts and it can be the case that just some of those are patented.
FriPura is an excellent example of a patentable product. It has stand-out qualities and there aren’t any competitors offering the same product qualities. The technology used to create this innovative device is patented, so that no one else can use this. Having had first-hand experience of patenting the award-winning FriPura filter, here are some key points you should keep in mind:
- Before you apply for a patent, be aware of other products that might be similar to yours, as you wouldn’t want to infringe on someone else’s patent. Ensure you conduct a thorough patent search – a patent lawyer can advise you on this, or you can have a look at the IP library. It’s also good practice to check patents held by others, so your idea isn’t infringing on anyone else’s patent. If your idea infringes on other’s patents, you will have to apply directly to them for a patent licence.
- Invest in professional market research that will help determine if there’s a real need for your product on the market. Spend time getting to know your product inside out and understanding how it will help your target market and thoroughly assess your competition.
- With the government suggesting that only 1 in 20 self-made patent applications actually get the green light, it really helps to hire a lawyer from the start, to guide you through your application, identify any possible loopholes and guarantee you do it right. Check out the CIPA for information on its members. The CIPA is the professional and examining body for patent attorneys.
- Once granted, a patent cannot be enforced by any official authority. In other words, it is your responsibility to take legal action to protect your invention from being copied – but keep in mind you’d have to incur all costs associated with this process.
- The major advantage of getting a patent is that it gives you the right to stop others from copying, manufacturing, selling or importing your invention without your permission. You do need to renew your patent though, to allow you to keep competitors at bay.
- You need to be able to protect the patent yourself. Although the government allocates the patent, it will not help with any funding surrounding the implementation of the patent. You must ensure that you have the funds to protect your patent.
- A patent is not always the right business move. You might find that a trademark or copyright licence (which is cheaper and easier to obtain), combined with an impactful marketing plan (which will aim to place you as a leader in your industry) makes better business sense and is enough to safeguard your product to a certain extent. Your lawyer would be the best person to advise you on this point.
- A patent generally takes between 12 and 18 months to apply for and obtain and then lasts for around 20 years.
- A patent in general is only given for the country where the application for patent is submitted and in accordance with the law there.
- Lots of things can secure patents, including, it would seem, these fun inventions: animal ear protectors, game bird decoy coats and hiccup treatments – all of which secured patents in early 2000.
A patent can be a valuable tool and although it is not able to eradicate competition, it can protect your product against it so long as you’re renewing it and are willing to enforce it.
By Sam Wilbraham, director, FriPura