There are many reasons to file a patent and there are also several reasons not to file. As an inventor it is important to know when to move forward and spend the money on a patent and when to choose other options. Since the typical cost of a patent is between $3,000 and $10,000 it is best to consider both sides of this argument.
There are three main reasons that an inventor would want to file for a patent.
The first reason is to protect a novel new product idea. This is the most common reason inventors are interested in patent protection. When any inventor develops a new product they want to protect it as quickly and strongly as possible and filing a patent is one way to do this.
Patents can also be used to block others from entering your product category. There is always more than one way to do things or solve a problem. Sometimes patenting the best method is not enough. If another company can develop a product that is almost as good as what you are offering they could put a serious dent in your product aspirations. One way around this is to file for a blocking patent. Blocking patents are typically used as a way to prevent copy cat products.
In this case you would file for a patent on a different method that solves the same problem as your original invention. This can be a very effective strategy if you feel you need to own a specific market space. The downside is the high cost of filing multiple patents.
The last reason to file patents is to build a patent portfolio. Sometimes it is not the quality of the IP that counts, it is the quantity. The more patents that you have the harder it is for someone else to challenge you in the marketplace or in the court room. It is difficult to overturn one patent but it is much harder to overturn several. This could be just enough of a reason for competitors to stay away.
The main reason not to file a patent, and this is very important, is when your product will not make you more money than the patent costs. This is a fundamental law in business and investment. The problem is that 99 out of 100 inventors never bother to evaluate their idea before filing for a patent. This is a big problem and the main reason that most inventors lose money on their ideas.
Evaluating an ideas is not glamorous and something you can brag to your friends about. It is however the most important step in the invention process. Always evaluate before developing or patenting.
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