When it comes to patenting inventions, a lot of money and resources are on the line. Making any one small mistake can be costly and a major waste of time. The United States has changed how they manage their patent system and now favors a first-to-patent system. But what does that mean for inventors and their patents?
We talked to an expert Scottsdale patent lawyer to find out more about the difference between first-to-invent and first-to-file systems, the best way to protect your ideas and how to go about patenting an invention.
What is First-to-Invent?
Before 2013, an inventor could try to claim patent rights to an invention based on the date they thought of the idea. One way inventors tried to document a date was to mail themselves specific details regarding their invention, thus legally postmarking their envelope with a certified date.
This was colloquially known as a “postmark patent”, or a “poor man’s patent.” The date on the envelope was then used to establish and defend who came up with the idea first and be granted exclusive patent rights.
While this isn’t the best way to protect your idea, it may provide minimal evidence. Experts recommend using a numbered page journal with dates and witnesses.
What is First-to-File?
In March of 2013, the United States converted to a first-to-file patent system under the America Invents Act (AIA). These new changes meant that patent rights were granted not to who conceptualized the idea first, but who followed through and filed for a patent or provisional patent application.
There are a few benefits to this system including the following:
- Simplification: Patent applications are black and white. Once filed, rights are granted which means less discrepancy than the first-to-invent system.
- Certainty: Once the patent is granted, patent owners and investors can move forward with more certainty that they will not be sued for infringement.
How to Patent Your Invention?
An inventor should try to file their patent application with the USPTO as soon as they have determined that their invention is eligible. There are a few basic criteria an invention must have in order to qualify for a patent. An invention must be
- Useful, meaning providing some practical benefit
- Novel, meaning unique or significantly different from previous patents
- Non-obvious, meaning worthy of patent protection due to its substantial enhancements or development
If your invention meets these few, initial standards, then you should consult with a patent lawyer to help you with the process of securing a patent. If you’re concerned about protecting your idea or lacking initial funds, you can also file for the streamlined version of the application called a provisional application. Either way, hiring a patent lawyer and completing a patent application is the best way to protect your assets.