Q: Patent Question: How do I safeguard an idea for a new product?
I have come up with an idea. In four (4) years of research, I have found that this product/item does not exist. I do not want this idea stolen. Before I seek financing, how may I patent this idea inexpensively? I have made the 'poor man's patent' and sent the idea to myself via the USPS. This item will not be sold retail. Rather, it is for industry and will save tens of thousands of gallons of water, thousands in labor costs as well as being a totally Green product.
How do I safeguard my idea?
Congratulations on coming up with a new product. I hope that it is a success.
You are also absolutely correct that you need to safeguard your idea. Among the documents that your investors will want to see prior to giving you money, is a patent application. If you do not have IP secured, they will assume that (1) you are not a serious entrepreneur and do not know what you are doing; and (2) someone else will steal your idea and wipe out their investments.
How do you safeguard your invention? Well, you need to get a patent attorney to file a patent application on your invention before you go look for financing. Do not talk to anyone about your idea before you do this.
You can file a US application or an international application. You shouldn’t be filing a provisional application unless you have a good reason to do so.
Don’t take any shortcuts on this. While you do not have to get the most expensive patent lawyer that you can find, you do need to hire a patent attorney who is an expert in your field so that he/she will provide you with a bullet-proof patent. Not only will it be necessary for any future litigation, but most professional investors want to see a well-written patent document.
As far as “poor man’s patent” goes, please note that this is a hoax perpetuated by well-meaning but poorly-informed individuals. It was pretty worthless in the roughly 3 cases that mentioned it when I looked into this about 10 years ago, and it would be worth even less today, after the passage of the AIA, where the date of the invention does not matter.
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