Here are a few common fallacies that inventors will hear or believe:
You can patent an idea by mailing yourself a letter – Referred to as a “Poor Man’s Patent.” Some people advise sending yourself a letter containing the invention. This will not replace filing a patent application with the USPTO and it provides no legal protection.
A Provisional Patent Application is a “Patent” – A Provisional Patent is not enforceable by law. It simply allows an inventor to verify the market potential of the invention for no more than one year. At one year after the filing date, you must have filed your patent application if you choose to proceed. Don’t take the timing lightly. You will need to allow adequate time to generate and file your application and to receive your “Granted Patent” afterward.
People interested in buying or licensing your patent will come running to your door
• Your invention will catch the attention of a number of companies but perhaps not the ones you envisioned. These companies are almost certain to contact you:
• Plaque companies that offer to memorialize your patent.
• Invention promotion or marketing assistance companies
• Avoid them! If you don’t believe us, search online for “inventor promotion scam” and see how many results you receive.
• People truly interested in your patent may contact you but it will likely take at least a year after publication. Note that many of these inquiries will not represent your most lucrative prospects identified during your market evaluation.
• The most expensive part of the process is obtaining the patent – Many people, and companies too, think that obtaining the patent is the hardest and most expensive part of making money from their invention. Based upon our experience, they are usually WRONG! Harsh words to be sure, but we have interacted with many clients, businesses, universities, and entrepreneurs over the years and many had this same thought. In our opinion, the biggest and most expensive part of this process is what to do after you receive the patent. Here are some of the steps that make this more complicated and expensive: identifying the optimal buyers, identifying and contacting the appropriate person in these companies, determining how and in what order you should approach these companies, traveling to meet potential buyers, building buyer appropriate prototypes, legal help with the contract, and determining and negotiating a reasonable royalty/price.
All patents are valuable – Sorry, only a small percentage of patents have monetary value to the owner (~5%).
Once a patent starts making money, my expenses are finished – No, here are some additional costs to think about: Patent maintenance dues are required to keep the patent in force. You may be sued for infringement. You will likely have to renegotiate your contract for royalties on an annual basis. You will need to remain vigilant for parties that infringe upon your patent, intentionally or not.
My idea is unique – Sorry, it is rare to have a truly unique invention. Somewhere in the world at some time, someone else has likely had the same or similar idea.
My patent will supersede all previous patents – If you have a patent that improves upon another patent, that first patent remains enforceable by law. This means that you will likely only receive a portion of the royalties from a licensee as the licensor will need to consider other patents in their licensing costs. You might even get sued by the owner of the original patent for infringement.
If no one else has patented my idea, then I’m likely to receive a patent – Many ideas aren’t patentable because the idea has been around so long that no relevant patents will be found, the idea is common knowledge, or the idea simply isn’t considered useful by the patent office. Consider this- there are many technologies currently in use that were first developed years ago. The Romans, for example, invented valves for shutting off the water over 2,000 years ago. With 2,000 years of development, how easy might it be to find something novel there?