If you want to patent an idea you need to be careful. Why? Well if you don't learn about what is involved you can spend A LOT of money. How much money depends on who you listen to and how you get your patent. You could spend up to $10,000 or more.
So what is there to know about getting a patent?
The first thing to consider when you want to patent an idea is that you may not need or be entitled to a patent for your product idea. Some products and product categories do not require a patent. In addition since patents are expensive you have to consider the likely return on or return of your investment.
There are tradeoffs for everything. If you spend $8,000 on a patent or even $4,000, the amount I typically spend, you need to consider what you are getting for your money. You are buying the legal monopoly to sell what you have patented. In some cases this is a fantastic bargain. As a personal example I have spent money on patents that have returned six figures in royalties. Spending $4000 on a patent was a wise investment.
Not all products have large potential for sales however. In addition not all patents protect the things that really matter to the consumer buying your product. If you patent a new feature on a hair dryer that dries hair 50% faster without any negative effects, i.e. dry scalp, or damaged hair, that is something people will pay for.
If the feature you patent will save 10% in electricity for the same drying time, you are probably wasting your money on a patent. There is likely a very small market for a 10% electricity savings on a hair dryer that would save the user a few dollars a year.
The next thing to consider if you are going to patent an idea is that you might not be entitled to a patent. Someone else may have already patented your idea. Your idea could also already be in the public domain. This simply means that the concept is not new and not owned by anyone. It is public property that anyone can use. The best way to determine this is by doing a detailed patent search and product evaluation. You can learn a lot by reviewing old patents.
The trick with patents is to patent only the things that matter. You have to patent when you will be getting a clear advantage. Many times you cannot count on outsiders such as patent attorneys to explain this to you. You need to understand your product, how it fits into the marketplace and who your competition is. Then make an informed decision for yourself.
Once you are confident that you should get a patent, make sure to check out the other resources below on this site.
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