Two Cents on Your Million Dollar Invention
Initial Advice on Your Patent First, congratulations on your brilliant idea. Know that people like you drive our economy and put this country at the forefront of innovation. Now for the advice: With ideas come many questions, How to protect it? Where to protect it? Who should I speak to? What is the cost? This article attempts to address most of these questions. However, be on the lookout for future articles being published by Kaplan Law Practice LLC. They are all original. If this article fails to address your particular question, there may be others that will. How do you protect an invention? You may do so contractually or by patenting the invention. A patent attorney may be able to assist with either method, especially if the firm also handles licensing or sales of inventions, since those are contracts. Contracts are limited in scope and generally only bind the immediate parties to the contract. In today’s world of multi-tiered corporations, parent companies and subsidiaries, you may or may not be able to fully bind even the very company you have signed a contract with. The other way to protect your invention is to obtain a patent on your invention. You may be able to obtain a patent by working on your own. However, since the patent process is complex and expensive, it is recommended that you retain a patent attorney to file a patent on your behalf. The primary benefit of a patent, is that it automatically binds everyone, irrespective of whether they learned the idea from you or have come up with it on their own. If their idea is similar to yours, and they have discovered it or began using it after you filed you patent application, you are still protected. Where to protect my idea? On a purely contractual level, your contract draftsman needs to anticipate and include all possible users of your idea with respect to the party which is trying to get access to your invention. Geography can get tricky, but the biggest danger here is from those who purchase your product and decide to produce their own version after seeing that there is no patent. On a patent level, a resident of New York follows exactly the same steps as the resident of California. A patent is a creature of federal law. Therefore, all patents must adhere to the same technical guidelines, enforce ability standards and application formalities. It also follows that a patent attorney in NYC will be able to file and prosecute a patent on behalf of a resident of LA, and visa-versa. The extent of patent enforcement depends on where it was issued. A patent issued in the US, protects from use, importation or reproduction of infringing matter in all United States territories. If you wish to have protection abroad, you will need to file a related but separate application, ultimately targeting each particular country where for one reason or another you invention may end up. Who should I speak to? Speak to those who have been in your shoes before. However, unless you trust them implicitly, do not disclose your idea under any circumstances without filing a patent application first. You may also speak to a patent attorney in your area. Disclosure to attorneys is protected under the broad sweep of the attorney client privilege. If you do not know of a good attorney, or wish to avoid that ‘good friend of mine’ or a ‘brother, sister, uncle of mine’ response, you may simply search for one on the internet. If you are a resident of New York, identifying the right attorney may be as easy as entering ‘patent attorney nyc’ into your search engine. If you are using a mobile device, and have consented to location tracker, a search for ‘patent attorney nyc’ will even return a set of attorneys within a several block radius of your location. What is the cost? The answer is here is highly subjective and variable. If choosing a patent attorney or a contracts attorney, look for someone who is knowledgeable, has been in business for a while and who is pleasant to work with. Look for good reviews, congeniality and contentiousness with which the particular attorney answers his or her calls or returns messages. Do not look for the cheapest alternative or the most expensive and exclusive alternative. If your idea is a winner, the legal expense will typically be a drop in the bucket in the long run, but do exercise caution since a patent issuance is not guaranteed.