Like everything in life, when it comes to filing a patent application, when you need to file is everything. And as startups well know, time can quickly run out.
So when you should you file for a patent?
Not too late
There are rules about filing patents. If you wait too long, then you can be blocked by the US Patent and Trademark Office from getting a patent.
Publishing your idea before you file can be the biggest block. In most countries, you must file before your publish your idea.
In the US, you can publish your idea up to one year before you file. After that – too late!
What does it mean to publish your idea? Any publicly available information about your idea is a publication.
So websites, TED talks, online videos, articles in newspapers and magazines are all publications.
Selling your idea – for example in the form of an app – is also a publication.
Don’t let the one year clock run out on your idea – get started today!
But you also shouldn’t file too early?
I personally see this a lot – entrepreneurs with a great idea who rush to file a patent – and then realize that it doesn’t protect their business.
Or it may not even protect their idea, after they work on the idea and refine it. Ideas do evolve and change; be certain that the idea that you protect is the idea that you want.
For example, Twitter started life as a side project in a company devoted to podcasting. Clearly if they had focused their patent portfolio on podcasting, it would not have been useful to them today. Their current portfolio includes multiple patents and patent applications which are focused on their business.
How to avoid filing too early? Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you know who your idea will help?
- Do you know how your idea will work?
- Do you have a basic design concept for your idea?
If the answer to all three questions is yes, then you may be ready for a patent!
Find out whether your idea is patent-worthy.
Your idea valuation depends on your timing
To really protect your idea with a patent, you shouldn’t file too early or too late.