Should You Obtain a Patent?
When considering whether to patent an idea for a product, you should ask the following questions:
- Is there already a patent that exists for the idea? Conducting a patent search for existing patents is key to determining whether someone has already patented your idea for a product.
- Will your invention be profitable? On the issue of profitability, you should consider the costs of obtaining a patent, as well as the costs of marketing and producing the product. The cost of filing for a patent can range from a few thousand dollars for a U.S. patent to hundreds of thousands of dollars for international patents.
There will also be maintenance fees, and possibly, costs of filing for additional patents, as improvements and expanded markets are identified. You will also need to consider the costs of hiring an attorney to help you with the complicated patent filing process. The costs of marketing and producing the product will vary depending on the product, and the degree to which you rely on professional services, such as marketing firms and manufacturing companies.
- What are alternatives to obtaining a patent? In addition to evaluating the potential upside of obtaining a patent for your product, you should also consider the disadvantages. Once you obtain a patent, others will be free to examine your product and potentially copy or improve it.
Although a patent theoretically protects you from such infringement, pursuing litigation against an infringer can be costly. Also, some inventions with a brief market life or a small market niche may not be worth patenting if you think you can enter the market before others have time to react and imitate your product.