What Does a Patent Protect?

I come across a lot of inventors/entrepreneurs who want to protect their idea because that means they will immediately start making a lot of money. I wish that were the case for everyone, but the reality is very different. One thing is to protect your idea, and quite another is to develop the idea, create a product, make people in the world aware of your product and then convince them to buy it. There has been a lot of talk as of late about 'Unicorn Technologies', but I will get into that in another blog post. In short, this term refers to the fact that there are a LOT of startups in the tech space vying for both attention and funding. Very few break out and ultimately turn a major profit. These are the unicorns...

In order to embark on getting a patent you need to be aware of two things: (1) Is your technology actually patentable? and, (2) Do you have the funds to get a patent registered??

Lets start with patentability. In order for you to qualify for a patent there are certain requirements that need to be met. The technology needs to be non obvious and novel. What does this mean? In essence, on its face, a reader of your technology diagram should not be able to tell right off the bat what your technology does. It should be explained. Secondly, the technology has to be new. A part of this newness is that you have not talked about it to a lot of people. I have worked with several engineers and scientists who love to write White Papers and present at Conferences. The problem with doing this prior to filing a patent is that it potentially disqualifies you from doing so. If you talk about the technology in a public forum, then it is considered no longer NEW - and therefore you cannot obtain a patent. A lot of dreams have been shattered this way. Lastly, not all software technologies can be patented anymore. The USPTO has gotten a lot more strict, resulting in many entrepreneurs having to copyright their invention as opposed to getting a patent.

Many clients are floored when I tell them the general price of getting a patent. Anywhere between $15,000 - $25,000. Yeah, patents are not cheap so you better have funds available. When a client balks at the price tag, I always have the same response. Yes, you are paying a lot upfront but you are potentially monopolizing a technology for 20 years. During that time nobody can commercialize the technology except for you. That is a big deal. Your income potential could be in the millions, and you will look back at that initial 25K price tag and think it was not that big a deal.