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How To Patent An Idea: A Guide For Beginners

Part 1: Common Patent Mistakes

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I’ve heard it before. Stories that start off with – “I paid a lot of money to get a patent on one of my products, and now someone else is making it! I can’t believe that they can change one little thing, and now my patent doesn’t protect me!”

I see this happen all the time to people that I wish knew everything that I’m about to tell you. Here’s how to understand patent claims and protect your invention.

Many brilliant people like you – scientists, engineers, professors, and other business professionals, often run to large law firms to secure a patent. Unfortunately without understanding patent law – how do you know if you’re getting your money’s worth?

A big named business doesn’t automatically mean big quality.

Does Taco Bell mean quality Mexican food?

Large law firms are billing machines. They place enormous pressure on partners and associates to crank out billable hours. To maximize profits, the associates with the least experience are assigned to draft patent applications for universities and small businesses. Even then, large firms only budget about 20 – 25 hours to discuss your invention and draft your patent application.

This mismatch leaves associates with little or no time to explain the bare-bones basics of patent law, including how the claims of a patent protect your invention. 

This brings us to…

The Problem

Inventors and business professionals are asked to review the claims of their patent application before it is filed. This step is THE critical step that is supposed to ensure that the claims will protect their invention.  

BUT no one has explained how to read the claims. 

They have no idea if the claims protect their invention. 

Worse, they often mistakenly think that the claims protect their invention.

To save time, inventors and business professionals often blindly trust their patent attorneys and approve the claims.

You might think that this sort of error would be caught by business professionals, technology transfer officers, or in-house counsel. Unfortunately, these people usually don’t know anything about patents,

OR they don’t have time to review every patent application, 

OR they don’t understand your technology well enough to protect your innovation,

OR some combination of the above. 

I promise you this: no one will care more about your business or your invention than you do! It is up to you to make sure that your patent protects your invention!

The Solution

I am writing this blog series to give you a few basic tips about how to read patent claims so that you will have an idea of what your claims will protect and what they won’t.

This series is not designed to make you a patent attorney or to replace one. Instead this is intended to give you a general idea of what your claims will cover, so that when your patent attorney drafts your claims, you can provide more informed feedback before approving your patent application for filing. Also, this series will only discuss utility patents, not design or plant patents.

Series Overview

  1. Introduction
  2. Understanding Patents
  3. How To Protect Your Idea
  4. The Most Common Types of Claims
  5. How Can A Product Claim Protect My Product?
  6. How Can A Method Claim Protect My Method?
  7. How Can I Prevent Design Around?
  8. Conclusion

Why Should You Care?

At this point, you may be thinking something like, “Wait a minute! Why should I read a total of 8 posts to learn how to patent an idea? I have seen other web pages with this sort of information in a single list of bullet points!”

The typical cost for drafting a patent application is over $8,000. The typical cost of filing and obtaining a U.S. patent is $20,000 to $30,000. It will probably take you hours to draft the application, and years to get it issued. If I were going to invest that much money and time to have a patent attorney help me get a patent, I would invest the time to read a few posts and figure out if my patent application was worth the paper it’s written on. I’m sure you would do the same.

Next week’s post in this series is How to Patent an Idea, and is a must-read to avoid wasted time, money, and effort.

If after reading this post you feel overwhelmed and like giving up on your idea, I highly suggest that you give us a call at (832) 621-0353. It won’t cost you a thing, and we’re available Monday thru Friday to answer your questions.

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