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Should you patent your inventions?

Light bulb, Thomas Edison
Light bulb, Thomas Edison
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If you have an idea for a product and are considering having it patented, there are a number of reasons for you to consider doing so. Patenting your invention gives you a certain degree of protection and it also helps to increase the possibility for profitability with your product.

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When considering if you should patent your invention, one of the first things that should be looked into are what could occur if you do not patent the invention. In a worst-case scenario, it may be possible that a competitor would take advantage of the unpatented invention or somebody else may patent it. You will also be limiting your ability to sell or transfer technology or to license the technology at some point in the future (Source: http://www.wipo.int/sme/en/ip_business/importance/risks.htm).

It is also a good idea for you to review the options that are available to you when you have an idea for a product. This can let you know if the product is worth the time that is necessary to file a provisional patent application (Source). Here are a few things for you to consider.

Do You Own the Invention? - There may be circumstances which would limit to your ownership of a unique invention. As an example, if you came up with the idea during the time that you were employed and you did so on business hours, your employer may own the invention. You may also have limited rights to the invention if it is directly related to your employer's business.

Determine the Marketability - Not all unique ideas are going to be marketable. It is important for you to do some market research before you take the time to patent the product. Look at the customers that may be available and ask for an honest evaluation.

Can It Be Classified? - In order for an invention to be patentable, it needs to fall within four different categories. Those categories include articles of manufacturer, machines, compositions of matter and processes/methods. More than likely, you will not have a difficulty fitting it into one of these categories if you have a functional product available.

Is a New Invention? - In order for your invention to qualify for a patent, it needs to be different from other inventions that exist. This is something that needs to be researched carefully before a patent is filed.

Is the Patent Useful? - Ideas may be artistic and they could amuse, but that does not necessarily mean that they would be considered for a patent. Your product should produce a result in order for it to be worthy of a patent.

Must Not Be Obvious - It may not be possible for you to patent something that is considered to be obvious. You need to take a look at those who are working in the field surrounding your idea or product in order to determine if they would consider it to be non-obvious. This is a requirement of filing a patent and one that should be considered, before you fill out the paperwork.