A patent grant gives you title to, or ownership of, the invention that you have patented. Just having a patent is often sufficient to discourage others from copying. Financial penalties are so severe that a would-be infringer will instead either license from you or not compete in the first place. In those rare instances where someone still does copy your invention, the patent enables you to pursue legal action to stop the infringer, and creates monetary incentive for you to do so.
How Do I Sell or License My Idea?
If you wish to sell or license your invention to someone else, a patent dramatically reduces your risks. To license the idea, most inventors have to show the idea to several manufacturers, each of whom are making products similar to the invention. The manufacturers are sometimes tempted to use the idea and redesign it to create their own version, believing that then they will not owe the inventor anything. Because patent claims can cover much more than the specific product, a patent can enable you to still require the manufacturers to take a license.
A license agreement is also much easier to create with a patent, since the invention being licensed is already well defined by the patent. With unpatented inventions, problems frequently arise during negotiations because of the difficulty in defining the invention. Many large companies will not even review an invention until the inventor signs an agreement limiting the inventor to patent rights. In that case, without a patent the inventor has no protection against theft of the idea.
Should I Always Patent My Ideas?
There are times when you may not want to get a patent, even on an idea that is patentable. Low total sales or undetectable inventions are two of the most common reasons.
Sometimes total projected sales are so small that projected profits will not justify the cost of getting and enforcing a patent. The patent, by itself, does not guarantee success or riches. To generate or increase income, the patent must be accompanied by sales, a license agreement, royalties on sales or other source of revenue that are more profitable than the cost of obtaining the patent.
If your invention is undetectable in a finished product, then how will you be able to tell if the invention is being used? In this case, the patent has told others how to copy, and you may not know that they have.
In addition, those people less interested in profiting from their creativity or those who explicitly wish to make their idea available for free to as many others as possible, sometimes for humanitarian or other reasons, will not wish to patent their ideas.
There are also times when you may wish to obtain a patent even in a situation that would discourage others from doing so. Only you can decide whether or not obtaining a patent is consistent with your objectives. Deciding when and when not to get a patent requires careful consideration of the relative importance and novelty of the invention in the marketplace and the benefits that a patent may be expected to offer. At Quill & Disc, we welcome the opportunity to discuss this with you in greater detail and help guide you appropriately for your own unique needs.