You’ve just put the final touches on your new invention and want to cash in on it. Unfortunately, some unscrupulous types may want to cash in on your hard work by stealing your invention. No doubt, you’ve heard the horror stories. An inventor pitches an invention to Company X only to be turned down. Six months later, the inventor sees a new product from Company X on the shelves that looks remarkably like the invention he/she pitched. These stories are far too common. That’s why you need protection before you begin pitching your invention to potential marketers, licensors, manufacturers or investors. With the proper protection, you’ll have the power to:
- Reduce the risk of losing your invention to theft.
- Reduce the risk of copycat producers.
- Reduce the risk of having a similar invention hit the market before yours does.
Document its creationOne of the best ways to prove something is yours to be able to show a timeline of evidence. As you work on your invention, or even after the fact, note the timeline of its creation, steps in its development, testing and prototype production. This applies whether you’ve created something entirely new, or simply improved on a current product. Create as much detail as you can. This is your intellectual property and sometimes it’s all you have to prove that Whizzle Version 1.3 is a unique invention.
Get a lawyerFind a legal eagle to stand by your side in the cumbersome process of documenting, protecting and pitching your invention. Look for a lawyer who specializes in intellectual property law.
Keep quietDisclosing too much information about your invention is risky business and can result in losing control of your intellectual property, attempts to steal your idea and costly lawsuits. Be very careful about the companies you choose to pitch your invention to. While pitching your invention, focus on what your invention does and not exactly “how” it does it. Non-disclosure agreements should be used if you’re going into the details of your invention.
Get a PatentPatents are an inventor’s best friend because they give you clearly documented ownership rights of an invention. This is a statement of ownership granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). That said, it’s a lengthy legal process not easily waded in by those without legal experience.
provisional patent, which is a short-term, 12-month patent that is designed to give inventors a cheaper way of approaching the patent process. Those provisional patents can be converted to a full patent within that time period. Before you venture down this process, consult the USPTO fee schedule to know what costs you can expect. This process starts with a patent search to confirm that your idea is unique.
Beware of invention development companiesIf you’re thinking of pitching your invention to an invention development company, be cautious. These companies come in all shapes and sizes, but their job is to take your invention and help you make money off it. When you don’t have the capital necessary to take your design to full production and sales, they can help. However, beware of invention development companies that ask for a large fee – paid upfront – before it will work with you. Most reputable firms work on a commission basis like a real estate agent.
- Revealing too much about your invention is one problem. But being too secretive about it can kill a potential deal, too. If you don’t provide potential marketers and licensors with enough information about your invention they’ll simply show you the door.
- If you’re considering selling your invention to a global market, note that patenting has to be done in every country. It’s not enough just to file in the U.S.
- Even if you have all the proper protection in place, it’s still possible that a copycat product will hit the market. Having a good intellectual property lawyer can help you determine the best course of action in this situation.