Protecting your idea is important once you have verified the commercial need for your product, but Patent Attorneys are expensive but with a little bit of hard work you can minimise the need for one and potentially submit the patent yourself.
You should always submit your patent to a professional Patent Attorney before submitting it to your local governmental IP Office but the process of writing it down and describing it helps if you really think through your idea.
What is a Patent?
A Patent is a document that defines what your invention is, what makes it unique to anything else on the market, and what the limits of its use are. According to the UK Patent Office Guide for your patent to be approved it must be:
- Something new that can be made and used
- Unique from everything else, it could be an amazing new invention or
- A fantastic new application of existing technology but you must be clear why your application is different from something anybody else can do or it isn’t original.
When should you get a patent?
We’ve been working on a prototype (now our second incarnation of the design, the first didn’t work). This is what we’ve learned so far.
Don’t put too much energy into protecting your idea to begin with, put it into executing it. Firstly if you have a idea, that’s all you have. It’s only in your head or maybe on your laptop or phone; it certainly isn’t out there where anybody can see it. If you don’t discuss your idea with people you can’t get any feedback on it. That being said a rule of thumb is “only show it people that need to see it” don’t go throwing it round everywhere because once it’s in the public domain you can’t patent it further down the line. Ideally you want them to sign an Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA) and you’ll already have a provisional patent in place to give you two layers of protection.
You can still share information without these things if you are super guarded about it i.e. “We’ve got this idea for a travel aid
with the advantage of providing the ability to put your feet up during long haul travel and go to sleep without paying for a business class seat”. We didn’t tell you how to achieve this and wouldn’t share the details until we’re confident we can trust the person we’re speaking too, but we’ve explained the benefits by selling the sizzle, not sausage!
How can you expect anyone to be honest about your idea if you can not discuss it with them to develop it?Lexi Quayle
Don’t worry about patenting an idea; if your can write the patent yourself great, if you cant you’ll need to hire an expensive patent lawyer. The main focus at the minute has to getting your relatively cheap provisional patent. When you first submit a draft/provisional patent it takes up to 18 months to be published so this initial patent is known as the Provisional Patent, this is when you do your commercial work to get ahead of the big fish and really hammer home your success! and being able to take this provisional patent to the bank and investors will show you are serious and have something of value.
The Difference between a Provisional and Utility Patent
We are big advocates here for doing things yourself however we must be clear once you have written and secured your Provisional Patent and you have successfully licensed it or found a manufacturing partner (kudos to you!) you will need to get a full/utility patent and now we strongly suggest you do get a professional patent lawyer/attorney to write the utility patent because the value of it’s patent is only as good as your ability to defend it from infringers, and if you need it written by a legal professional, preferably one who has experience of defending one in a court room.
Before applying for a provisional patent (we’ve already discussed why it’s not a good idea to go straight for a full patent) always ask yourself the following 3 questions:
- How original is my idea? If your idea’s that easy to copy its probably not worth your effort, maybe you should re-think it.
- Do I have the budget to defend it? The chances are that somebody is going to make a cheap imitation, unless you can afford tens or even hundreds of thousands defending your patent it’s not worth it.
- Can it be achieved by professionals in it’s field of use? This is referring to “utility/usefullness” requirements for patents. If only you can make or use it you can’t protect it either. Check out this guide for further information,
How to Write a Patent Title
After it has been published you usually have 20 years protection on your invention but it is now fair game for the big boys to work out their own novel alternatives to do what you’re doing, and word to wise……there’s a good chance they already have had somebody looking at something similar (but we’ll talk about that when it comes to selling your idea).
With this in mind, it is important to make sure your title doesn’t give too much away as it’s the only thing that’s published instantly. So if you have a super new “Solar Powered Electromagnetic Industrial Lifting Device” don’t put that as the title, “Electronic Lifting Device” is great.
Sections in a Patent
The World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) Manual says there should be six sections in a patent however the Summary can usually be written into the introduction section to make it more readable and save you some time.
- Claims – these are legally binding statements that describe how the invention functions.
- Description (or specification) that allows people to see how it works and how it is made.
- Drawings – technical drawings showing the invention and how it functions.
- Abstract – a brief summary of your invention, including all of the most important technical features of your invention.
How to Write a Patent Description
Start with your introduction and explain what your brilliant invention is, the problem that it solves, and the background to it, and it’s a technical field that it operates in. If the “Solar Powered Electromagnetic Lifting Device” field doesn’t exist you should whichever one is closest to your invention such as “Lifting Device” or “Solar-Powered Electronic Devices” fields.
The idea of the specification is also part of the Description and so doesn’t have it’s own section. It is to describe the problem the invention solves not give away how you do it but why it so much more amazing than all the other ideas, you can refer to previous patents you found during your patent search.
As with the Claims section (see below) try to ensure that the specification is broad enough to accomodate anything that didn’t come up in your inital patent search but does come up in the Patent Office’s offical search.
You should also remember to reference your statements to the claims section (follows on) but explain exactly what the statements are so the viewer doesn’t have to flip between pages for clarity. Also remember to relate it back to problems you set out in the introduction, and if there is any optional features you should describe them and their benefits here.
The purpose of this section is to explain to a skilled person (not a layman) how to make the invention. You don’t need tell them every possible way of making it but you must tell them at least one very clearly.
There must be enough detail for the skilled person to see how to construct invention or perform the process so don’t limit this section it’s not uncommon for this section to run over 3 pages.
How to do Patent Drawings
You should include patent drawings in your unless your idea is for a chemical formulation or a new process, in which case we recommend using a professional as it can be be done for about $100/£100 per page so it wouldn’t be much in the grand scheme of things, but if your are truly on a shoestring budget we recommend this superb book from Legal form Provider Nolo. It even tells you how to do it with a camera and trace the photos to produce drawings of your drawing or computer skills aren’t that great!
Here is an overall guide to producing drawings yourself:
- If you have more than 1 drawing label each one consecutively “Figure 1”, “Figure 2” etc.
- Lines should be clear solid black to allow good photocopying.
- The margins around the page must be in excess of 2.0cm at the top and left-hand side, and 1.5cm on the right-hand side and 1.0cm at the bottom. This is the same in the USA and the UK.
- Do not write anything in the margins, including using drawing a frame or engineering drawing type borders.
- Put a page number of total page numbers at the top of each drawing page, but not in the margins (see the example below).
- Do not write in descriptive texts in the drawings, that’s what the Description section is for.
- Do not use Production Drawings i.e. showing any dimensions, part numbers, or parts etc.
- Use the same reference numbers or letters for each part of every drawing.
- Capital letters must be a minimum of 0.3 CM high
- The paper size must be A4 in the EU/UK and 8.5″ x 11″ (Letter) in the USA.
- Drawing should be black and white, do not use color without first checking with your local government IP office rules.
How to write Patent Claims
The claims section is the most important part of the patent because the claims legally define the function of your invention. The claims are a general description. The Statements of Invention in the Description section are to explain the details that the claims outline so it may be easier to start with the Claims section first when writing your patent.
Number the claims from 1 onward where the first claim is the essential features that distinguish it from everything else, and the following claims are the Dependent Claims for additional or optional features (if there are any).
It is vital for your commercial success that the claims be as broad as possible to prevent a competitor from changing a technical detail to circumvent your patent.
Patent Abstract Section
The abstract is a brief summary of your invention. It is to ensure that people searching for similar patents can find it once it has been published.
The key things are to the give a brief description and not to include any new information you haven’t mentioned already because it can’t be changed later on.