By Renu Bala Rampal and Johny Raj Solomon
An idea is a creation of mind. The idea, when implemented, may turn into an invention. The invention may include a product and/or a process provided it should be novel. In order to obtain ownership and prevent others from making, selling, using and importing your invention, it is recommended to file an application and obtain a patent for the invention. The entire process of turning an idea into patents includes five major steps:
STEP 1 – Document your Idea
By just having an idea in mind is simply useless rather the idea should be clearly defined in a written document. The document should disclose the idea in a best possible way as it serves as a proof for being the first one to come up with the idea. It is recommended to make written notes of all related aspects of the idea. The document should include concept with object and advantages, working, method for manufacturing the invention and strategy for marketing, etc. This is the first step towards patenting an idea thereby preventing others from using, selling, importing and making the invention after obtaining a patent for the same. The idea must be recorded in an inventor’s journal covering all major aspects in detail. The journal may be any bound notebook with consecutively numbered pages which cannot be reinserted/removed. All the ideas should be appropriately dated in the journal. Most importantly, the journal should be signed by a witness.
STEP 2 – Research your Invention
It is important to research your invention in order to sure if you are eligible to get a patent for the same. The research should be conducted from a technical, business and a legal point of view. There are two major steps that one should consider prior to filing an application for patent:
- Conducting a patent search: Conducting a patent search is often recommended to be sure if any similar invention already exists in the market/public domain. There are a number of software to conduct a prior art search. A free search for patent literature may also be conducted at Google-Patents or using an official government website, such as Espacenet (European Patent Office), USPTO (USA Patent Office), Patentscope (PCT-WIPO) etc. A search for non-patent literature is often recommended to be double sure if any related invention already exists, though not patented. In case any similar invention exists regardless of whether a patent application has already been filed or not, it might be difficult to obtain a patent for that particular invention due to lack in novelty factor.
Apart from above, it is also important to understand what kind of ideas are considered to be patentable as some of the matters, such as abstract theory, topography of integrated circuits, arrangement or re-arrangement of known devices, method of agriculture, medicinal process, mathematical method, artistic work, traditional knowledge etc. are not considered as invention.
- Conducting a market research: A market research is important to ensure if your invention has potential to stand out and attract buyers. Also, prior to investing time, efforts and money for development of the invention, it is always a good decision to conduct some market research. Another advantage of conducting a market research includes modifying your invention as per the market needs in terms of concept, costing and other factors.
STEP 3 – Develop a Prototype of the Invention
Next important step includes developing a prototype of the invention. A prototype is a working model of the invention incorporating all the aspects as recoded in the inventor’s journal. It provides a layout of the invention and enables the inventor to detect flaws and modify the invention accordingly. Virtual Prototype may be considered for inventions that demand huge amount of money such as novel drug. It is therefore recommended to create a prototype of the invention before applying for a patent as it may not be possible to fix flaws, incorporate new features or make major changes in the invention once patented.
Following instructions should be kept in mind while developing a prototype-
- Sketch out the idea in the inventor’s journal
- Create a three dimensional model of the invention
- Create a full working model of the invention
STEP 4 – File a Patent Application for the Invention
Once you have fixed all the flaws and made the required changes in the invention, it’s the time to file a patent application for the invention. Generally, there are two types of patents: a design patent (design application) and a utility patent (patent application). The design patent may include manufacturing non obvious, novel ornamental design and utility patent may include novel product and/or a process. A patent as well as design application can be filed for the same product if it satisfies respective criteria of registration.
For filing a patent application, a provisional and/or complete specification disclosing and claiming the invention should be drafted carefully as per the guidelines issued by the patent office. After filing the application, it goes through several procedures such as publication, examination etc. before disposal of application.
STEP 5-Market the Invention
Now is the time to plan how to launch the invention in the market. One should be ready with a business agenda keeping in mind how to make money, where and how to manufacture the invention, how to sell the invention, etc. This is the stage where you decide if you are willing to manufacture and sell the invention by your own or you wish to license the invention for sale. On licensing the invention, the inventor may receive a small percentage as royalty fees. However, licensing protects the inventors from financial instability which could eventually lead to big losses.
The entire process of turning an idea into an invention and securing a legal right over it may be time taking but smart work along with some dedication may result in fruitful results.
Aastha Suri, Patent Agent at S.S. Rana & Co. has assisted in the research of this article.