Is Your Tech Innovation Patent Worthy?

Here’s what to know about patenting the great idea that will revolutionize tech and earn you giant bags of money.

Written by Curtis Morley
Published on Jan. 18, 2024
Is Your Tech Innovation Patent Worthy?
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Do you have the next big tech innovation on your desk? If so, think about protecting your groundbreaking idea with a patent

4 Characteristics of a Patentable Innovation

  • Novel: The idea is genuinely new.
  • Non-obvious: It is not an obvious combination or modification of existing technologies.
  • Useful: It must have practical application or utility.
  • Industrial applicability: It must be capable of being made or used in an industry. 

A patent grants the inventor exclusive rights to your invention for a certain period, typically 15 to 20 years from the filing date, depending on the patent type. This exclusivity provides inventors with the opportunity to capitalize on their innovations, either by producing and selling the patented product themselves or by licensing the rights to others.

In the tech world, patents cover a broad spectrum of inventions, ranging from software and algorithms to hardware and cutting-edge technological processes. Essentially, if an invention is novel, non-obvious and has a practical application, it might be eligible for patent protection.

More Patent Advice6 Questions to Ask When Patenting an Idea for Your Company

 

How to Tell if Your Idea Is Patent Worthy

Not every idea qualifies for a patent — your invention must meet specific criteria to be eligible. Before starting down the road to a patent, consider these guidelines to determine whether your idea might make the cut.
 

Novelty

The first and most vital element is novelty. Is it different from anything that has been publicly disclosed, published or patented before? Conduct a thorough search of existing patents and publications as well as extensive web searches to ensure that your idea is genuinely new.
 

Non-Obviousness

In addition to being novel, your idea must also be non-obvious to someone skilled in the relevant field. This means that your invention should not be an obvious combination or modification of existing technologies. 

Consider whether your idea involves a unique and inventive step that wouldn’t be immediately apparent to others in the field. Make sure it has that wow factor. If people are saying, “Why didn’t I think of this,” then there’s a good chance it is non-obvious.
 

Usefulness

If you're trying to patent saddles for flying pigs, you may want to reconsider. A patentable invention must have a practical application or utility. It should solve a specific problem or provide a tangible benefit. Will your idea have real-world use? How does it address a current need or improve upon an existing solution?
 

Industrial Applicability

Patents are typically granted for inventions that have industrial applicability. This means that the invention must be capable of being made or used in an industry. If you are trying to create something you saw in a comic book or sci-fi novel that is currently not able to be produced, you will most likely get denied. If it’s something like Elon Musk’s Tesla Cybertruck, the manufacturing process would need to be proven before a patent would be offered. Ensure that your idea has relevance and applicability in the technological sector.
 

Market Potential

While not a strict legal requirement, considering the market potential of your invention is practical. A commercially viable invention may have a higher likelihood of being worth the investment in the patenting process. Don’t spend the time and money to get a patent if the invention isn’t going to be a moneymaker. Assess the market demand, potential competitors and the economic viability of your idea. Patents are expensive. Make sure you can make multiples on your patent investment.

 

What to Do Before Applying for a Patent

Once you have determined your innovation has legs, here’s what to do before sending your application to the patent office.
 

get advice from Professionals

Seek advice from professionals in the field, such as patent attorneys or experts in the relevant industry, to help assess the patentability of your idea, guide you through the application process and offer perspectives on potential challenges or opportunities. Get a good reality check from people who have been there.
 

Consider the Cost and Time

Obtaining a patent costs from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars and can be a time-consuming process. Evaluate whether the potential benefits of securing a patent for your idea outweigh the associated expenses and the time it takes to navigate the patenting process. Utility and international patents are good for 20 years. Design patents are good for 15 years. Is the time and cost worth protecting this idea for 20 years or can you gain something more by making it open source? Make sure your investment is worth the effort.

By carefully considering these factors, you can assess the patent-worthiness of your idea and make informed decisions about whether pursuing a patent is the right path for protecting and capitalizing on your innovation. If in doubt, consulting with a patent professional can provide tailored advice based on the specifics of your invention.

more advice for entrepreneursWhy Your Company Should Develop an IP Strategy

 

7 Basic Steps to Secure a Patent

Obtaining a patent can be a complex and time-consuming process, but breaking it down into fundamental steps can demystify the journey for inventors. Here is a concise overview of the basic steps involved in securing a patent in the tech industry.
 

Conduct a Patent Search

Before diving into the patent application process, conduct a thorough search to ensure that the proposed invention is genuinely novel. This involves exploring existing patents, publications, and other sources to identify any similar inventions that might already be patented.
 

Document Your Invention

Precise documentation is key to a successful patent application. Create a detailed and comprehensive description of your invention, including any drawings or diagrams that can help illustrate its unique aspects. The goal is to provide a clear and complete picture of the invention to the patent examiner. The simpler you can explain your complex idea the more likely it will get accepted.
 

Determine Patent Type

In the tech world, inventors can apply for different types of patents, including utility patents, design patents, international patents and plant patents. Utility patents are most common for tech innovations and cover new and useful processes, machines, articles of manufacture or compositions of matter.
 

Prepare and File the Patent Application

With the documentation in hand, the next step is to prepare and file the patent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The application needs to include a detailed written description, claims defining the invention’s boundaries and any necessary drawings. Get a great patent attorney. Once you have determined that you have a patentable idea, a good attorney will make sure the application is accepted more readily and that it will have the right protections in place for the life of the patent.
 

Wait for the Patent Examination

Once the application is filed, a patent examiner assesses the application for compliance with patent laws and determines whether the invention meets the criteria for patentability. This process may involve back-and-forth communication between the inventor and the examiner, known as the prosecution stage. Your lawyer will take care of most of this with your collaboration.
 

Respond to Office Actions

During the examination, the patent office may issue office actions, which are official communications detailing any issues or rejections. It is crucial for you to carefully respond to these office actions. Address any concerns raised by the examiner quickly and thoroughly. The process is long and the more responsive you are, the smoother and faster it will go.


Wait for the Decision

If the patent examiner is satisfied with the application and all issues are resolved, the patent will be granted. However, if there are insurmountable issues or the invention does not meet the necessary criteria, the application may be denied. In such cases, inventors may appeal or make amendments to address the concerns. 

Don’t give up if you get rejected. Go back to the drawing board, literally. Draw new sketches and address any concerns. If it is rejected for valid reasons, reevaluate the idea and see how you can make it unique. You may want to look into a provisional patent to create an early filing date and protect your patent during the 12 months it takes to get approved.
 

Maintain and Enforce the Patent

Once a patent is granted, inventors must pay maintenance fees to keep the patent in force. Additionally, you have the responsibility to enforce your exclusive rights by taking legal action against any unauthorized use of your patented invention.

Obtaining a patent in the tech world involves careful planning, documentation and engagement with the patent office. While the process may seem intricate, the potential benefits of securing exclusive rights to a groundbreaking invention can be a game changer for inventors and businesses alike. 

So, is there a patent in your future? If you’re a tech innovator with a revolutionary idea, the answer might very well be yes.

This content is for informational and educational purposes only. Built In strives to maintain accuracy in all its editorial coverage, but it is not intended to be a substitute for financial or legal advice.

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