How Do I Know if I Should Patent My Idea?

ASK THE PATENT ATTORNEY

Two weeks ago, I attended the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurship Summit In Atlanta, GA.   As I met with several emerging entrepreneurs, repeatedly I was asked the same question over and over, “How do I know if I should pursue a patent for my idea?”  My answer was always the same, “IT DEPENDS”.  Typically, when I am presented with this question, I encourage the inventor/entrepreneur to conduct a patentability search or search for existing inventions that are the same or similar to their idea. 

Although there aren’t any guarantees that someone somewhere hasn’t invented something that is the same or similar to your idea, by conducting a patent search using resources like search engines or hiring a law firm to do a search on your behalf, you can get a general understanding of whether or not your idea is “new” or “novel” or whether substantially similar inventions are already developed.  Sometimes patent searches return several articles or disclosures of the same or similar inventions.  Other items patent searches may return very few to no results. 

Nonetheless, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will conduct its own search once your patent application is filed.  Typically, a search by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will almost always return results that were not discovered by you or your search firm.  However, it is at this point that you will have an opportunity to review the results found by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and explain the patent examiner assigned to your case why your invention is different from any and all of the inventions he or she found.  You may also amend or modify the claims in your patent application (assuming that you do not add any new subject matter) in order to distinguish your invention from any of the results found by the patent examiner.  

To sum up, nobody truly knows if their invention is new and novel until the patent office grants an issued patent and even then they may have missed something. The best you can do is perform a patent search and draft the patent application the best you can in order to get the patent allowed.

All the best,

Waukeshia  D. Jackson, MBA, Esq.

Managing Partner

Jackson & Lowe Law Group, P.C.