By: James Kashmer (Linkedln Profile here.)
Is it Patentable?
Some ideas are so obvious that we ask ourselves “why didn’t I think of that!!!!” The truth is “obvious” usually means the idea is not patentable–especially when others “knowledgeable in the art” are also working in the field.
Before spending your money, it’s not a bad idea to get a sense of the “mine fields ahead” when deciding to pursue a patent. This can be done simply by visiting the United States Patent and Trade Mark Office Web Site (www.uspto.gov) and conducting a patent search. By doing this you should get a sense of how “crowded” the field is, and, from closer examination, where the mines might lie.
How Do I Protect It?
It is very important to protect your Intellectual Property (IP) starting Day l. You do this simply by putting on paper (preferably in a buond book) a detailed description of the idea and how it works along with your signature and date. (There’s a nice “inventor’s notebook” that I found on Amazon here.) Once this has been done, explain your idea to someone until they fully understand it. Then have them sign and date your idea.
Going forward from there, understand that (if you are “sloppy” with your IP and not make an effort to protect it) you may find out in court some day that you lost your patent protection. So use Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) when you talk to someone who may be in the “business”. Don’t copy and distribute information to anyone just because they ask for it.
What Is It Worth?
The truth of the matter is your IP is not worth much…until you start doing something with it.
The value of your IP builds as you accomplish key milestones. Examples of key milestones are: the granting of a patent, the building of a proof of principle model, the building of a working prototype, completion of clinical trials, and FDA clearance to market. In general, the further you develop your IP the more it should be worth. This is because you are reducing the risk and taking out the “unknowns” from the valuation methodology equations for potential investors. This makes investors more likely to purchase your IP and, so, makes it more valuable.
At the end of the day, the larger question of what your IP is worth is not very straightforward. It depends, also, on many additional factors (besides completion of milestones) including the size and growth of the applicable markets, competition, cost, and pricing.
We’ll cover some of these elements when we discuss more about your IP in upcoming entries.
As for now, remember: your IP increases in value as you decrease potential downside risk for anyone who would be interested in purchasing your protected idea. “Obvious” idea that’s difficult to patent? Poor protection? “Sloppy” protection maintenance? Less valuable IP.
Until next time: keep on developing your ideas, and get in touch with any questions or comments!