Can Your Idea Be Patented?

Every invention starts with an idea. Most inventors we have worked with have said that their ideas were the result of noticing something in their everyday business that was inefficient, ineffective, defective, or simply irritating, and has been this way for a long time. It could be a business practice, a piece of machinery, or software that simply has been defective for a very long time. They know they could come up with a better process, but aren’t sure if they could recover their costs.

 

The modern patent system exchange is based upon a simple concept: in exchange for explaining how to make and use an invention, the inventor is designated as the only person in the country to make and use that invention for a specific period of time. This exclusive right, when properly enforced, has the micro-economic effect of creating a monopoly. An inventor may choose to patent their idea in order to be able to charge higher prices, or for the purposes of marketing. Whatever your motives are, a patent attorney can help you properly protect your invention.

 

But first, you have to get your idea to work. You need a “reduction to practice.”

 

In order to get a patent, the invention must be shown to work as claimed, or the inventor must provide the information necessary to enable an expert in a relevant field to create and use the invention. This is referred to as a “reduction to practice.”

 

An “actual reduction to practice” occurs when there is an invention is tested under actual working conditions. In contrast, when a patent is filed that could enable someone to actually reduce the device to practice (that is, build the device), but the device hasn’t been actually built, this is a “constructive reduction to practice”. The distinction only makes a difference when two separate inventors claim to have invented the same thing.

 

Normally, the first person to file wins, but if the first person to file provides a constructive reduction to practice, while the second inventor provides an actual reduction to practice, then the latter inventor wins. In short, the real deal trumps something that only exists on paper.

 

We can help you determine the patentability of your invention.

 

As we noted above, the patent system is essentially a compromise with the government. You explain how to make and use your invention, in exchange for being able to prevent others from making or selling similar devices for a limited period of time.

 

This raises a serious question: What should you disclose to the public in your patent filing, and what should you keep as a trade secret? We can help you determine what elements of your invention are actually patentable. Knowing this allows you to only disclose the bare minimum amount of information, while keeping valuable—but unpatentable—information secret.

 

To make this determination, we create a patentability opinion. This is done by performing a prior art search, in which we examine all available materials about potentially similar inventions. Based on that comparison, we can identify features that have not yet been claimed by other inventors, and determine which of those are most likely to be patentable. You can then use that information to choose which claims to patent, and which claims to keep as a trade secret.

 

The Law Office of Michael O’Brien can perform a patentability opinion for $2,500. If you have previously purchased a simple or comprehensive patent search, then that cost can be credited toward a patentability opinion.

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