Frequently Asked Questions
I have an innovative idea! What should I do?
The patent prosecution process is not for the faint of heart: It can be expensive and time consuming, as even the simplest technologies can cost over $10,000 and 3 to 5 years to obtain an issued patent. The answer depends on what you plan to do with your innovative idea, your time horizon for your plan, and your risk tolerance. You can read a more complete analysis in my Patent or not to Patent resource.
I have an invention. I made a working prototype and I want to sell it to [a large company]. Where do I start?
If you haven’t already done so, you should talk with an IP professional to get specific guidance about how to effectively protect your invention while laying out a viable licensing strategy. Know that licensing to large companies can be extremely difficult without a comprehensive IP portfolio and market traction—still, there are smart ways to improve your odds. Here’s the Quora link.
I’d like to find an IP professional who can help me — What should I do?
Recommendation from someone you trust is best, especially if the trusted individual has experience in a similar technology field as you. For example, you wouldn’t ask a divorce attorney to file a real estate contract, would you? In the same way, you wouldn’t want a patent agent with a biotech Ph.D. to write a patent application for you related to a complex semiconductor processing technology. A full discussion of how to select the appropriate IP professional can be found here.
How can I search for pending patent applications that have not yet issued?
Most patent applications are published ~18 months from the priority date, with some exceptions. If the patent application was filed more than 18 months ago, it will generally be published on a variety of public databases, such as at USPTO.gov, WIPO.int, and others. Patent applications filed less than 18 months ago are generally not published, although you might be able to find related non-patent publications by the inventor. Full answer on Quora here.
Can anyone patent my idea from my published research paper?
Generally not, as your research paper would be considered a prior art publication against any new patent applications filed after your publication date. However, the publication would also mean that you are no longer able to file for a patent in pretty much all jurisdictions outside of the US, and a one-year clock starts upon publication in the US. It all depends on the circumstances, some of which I considered on Quora here.
How do you patent your startup idea?
The answer depends on where you’ll be manufacturing, selling, and using the product based on the patents, as others have mentioned. Additional factors, such as market value of the product, your anticipated market share, competitiveness of the market, etc., would also come into play. You can see my full answer on Quora here.
I’ve been asked to prove ownership of my IP. What should I do?
This question comes up commonly during due diligence, such as during fundraising. Investors will want to know that you have a clear chain of ownership of every asset in your company, including IP. The best way to demonstrate ownership is to have a clear record of IP assignment documents, IP clauses in contracts, and other legal agreements. If there are any issues, your IP counsel may be able to help you to remedy the issues. You certainly don’t want to wait until you are in the middle of investor due diligence to find out you may have an IP ownership problem. The main thing to remember is that it’s MUCH easier to deal with each agreement and properly document it at the time of the agreement than to try to remedy situations later. Read about the top 8 items to consider related to IP ownership here.
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