A patent is a powerful tool. With a patent, an inventor or business can defend its intellectual property (IP). A competitor that tries to replicate the patented material can find themselves getting a court order to cease operations and a financial penalty for any monetary benefit. These are just a few reasons to get patent protections. But patents are not easy to get — those who wish to apply must follow specific protocol and get everything in order before the United States Patent and Trademark office will approve the application.
One way to better ensure approval is to avoid common mistakes.
Mistake #1: Thinking a letter is enough to verify date of invention.
There is a myth that claims an inventor can mail themselves a letter with the details of the invention and, as long as the mail was registered and never opened, use the letter as proof of inventorship. If there is another business or inventor who seeks patent protection on the same invention, the inventor believed this letter would serve as all the evidence needed to dispute the claim.
Unfortunately, this is not true. This letter is unlikely to provide enough evidence to dispute another inventor’s claim. Instead, it can be more helpful to have an independent third party serve as witness. This individual could review and sign the letter as a record of the invention. Having both a witness and a signed and dated record is much more likely to help in the event of a challenge.
Mistake #2: The never-ending, all-powerful patent.
Patents are not eternal. Unfortunately, patents are also generally not renewable. The founders of the country included patent protections within the constitution for a set period of time. The current length is generally 20 years from the filing date.
Patents are also only enforceable where they are granted. Thus a U.S. patent is generally only enforceable within the U.S.
These are just a few misconceptions that can cause confusion when trying to protect an invention. You can better ensure your invention is properly protected by seeking legal counsel to aid in the patent application process.