With National Inventors Month coming to a close, St. Louis patent attorney Anthony Fussner spoke to Julie Bawden Davis at the American Express Open Forum about developing ideas into inventions and keeping those inventions safe by securing the intellectual property rights.
One important item for inventors and entrepreneurs to consider is whether their product will be an improvement on an existing product or a totally new invention. Improvements can be easier to market because consumers will already be familiar with the idea, although brand new products have the potential to be more lucrative.
Once an idea is fleshed out, many business owners recommend conducting market analysis to determine the product’s viability. Research may show that a product needs to be fine-tuned to better serve a wider audience, or it could show that a product will not be profitable at all. Knowing this – and cutting the cord early – can save companies a fortune.
When the idea is finalized, Fussner says it’s time to protect that idea. “Because intellectual property is oftentimes the most valuable asset of a business, it’s important to begin the process of securing IP protection immediately,” he says. “A patent is a monopoly or right to exclude others from making, using, selling, offering for sale or importing the patented invention for a limited period of time in exchange for a detailed disclosure of the invention.”
Fussner adds that the U.S. currently uses a first-to-file patent system, meaning that the first person to file for a patent will be the one who holds the patent, regardless of when the product was actually invented. Keeping ideas confidential is therefore vitally important in any young company’s intellectual property program.
Inventors may be discouraged by the amount of time it can take to register patents, although many find that the protections granted by a patent are worth the time and investment once the rights are finalized. Business owners should also consider trademarks and copyrights — which are often more time and cost efficient to obtain — to protect other areas of their work, as well.
Above all, no business or invention will survive without hard work, dedication and planning. For entrepreneurs looking to invent the next big thing, speaking to an intellectual property attorney may be part of a winning strategy.