Let’s be real: patents are hard. They’re time-consuming, expensive, and difficult to acquire.

Still, they can also be your foremost legal protection. And without an issued patent, you can’t demonstrate legal ownership of your innovation.

Here’s a closer look at what rights you have when you patent your invention–and what happens if you don’t pursue patent protection.

What Happens If You Don’t Patent

Like the title for your car, your issued patent is a proof of ownership of your patented invention. Pretty much all countries, including the U.S., relies on a first-to-file patent system, which means that the first inventor to file a patent application for a particular invention is the one who has a legal right to it. Here’s what happens if you don’t patent your innovation.

Risk of Infringement

One of the biggest risks of not obtaining an issued patent for your innovation is the risk of infringement. Because your legal rights over your invention are based on your issued patent and the patent’s filing date, you don’t have any legal ability to prevent someone from infringing on your patented invention without…well, your patent.

The entire point of a patent is to prevent someone else from infringing on your patent rights. But if you don’t have a patent, you don’t have patent rights, and as far as the law is concerned, you don’t have the right to prevent someone else from copying/using/making your invention..

Competitors Can Take Advantage

That’s bad news for you and fantastic news for your competitors, who could easily take advantage of your lack of preparation to snatch your invention out from under you.

Remember, in the U.S., it does no good to prove that you had the idea first. Your patent rights are based on the first-to-file doctrine, meaning the first person to get an application on file at the patent office will get the opportunity to obtain patent protection.  

For example, let’s say inventor A invents a concept on January 1, then files a patent application on March 1.  Independently, inventor B independently invents the same concept on February 1, and files a patent application on February 28.  In this case, inventor B wins the right to obtain patent protection, even though inventor A came up with the invention first.

In other words, your lack of patent protection means your competitors can copy your invention and sell it without fear of you suing them.  Even worse, if your competition gets to the patent office first, then they might be able to turn around and accuse you of patent infringement.

Zero Chance to License and Sell

As noted earlier, a cornerstone of your patent rights is the exclusive ability to profit off of your invention, including the exclusive right to license and sell your invention. If you hold a patent, you can charge a license fee when others use your product.

But if you don’t hold an issued patent, then you essentially have no legal ownership of your invention. While you could theoretically license and sell your invention based on your knowhow or expertise, that’s a much harder sell.  In fact, even if you have filed a patent application, licensing and commercializing your invention is difficult before you get an issued patent in hand.  There ARE ways to expedite patent applications, so you should definitely talk with a patent professional who can help you craft your patent application filing to fit your business intentions.

In simple terms? If you don’t have a patent, you don’t own your innovation. Your IP is only as strong as your protection over it. Which means if you’re trying to get your big idea off the ground, you need the right patent team on your side.

We provide expert patent services to guide inventors through every stage of innovation, whether you’re an individual or a major corporation. We know what it takes to turn an idea into a protected, profitable invention, and our job is to help you get there.

Sound good? Then let’s make your dream happen. Click here to get started.