An inventor sees his physician
Patient: Doctor, I have a idea for a great product, but are too afraid to share it.
Doctor: Sir, I am afraid you suffer from a chronical illness, one that may doom your chances of launching a successful venture.
Patient: What is it?
Doctor: Sir, you are suffering from i’m-afraid-someone-will-steal-it-from-me-ism
Of course, no such illness has ever been diagnosed, nor is it fatal. However, it symptoms are real: thinking your product is the greatest innovation since sliced bread, overestimating the sales, underestimating the workload, thinking only about the product and not about the business, paranoia about some company out to steal your idea. Been there, done that!
But it can be treated.
I will share with you 3 easy ways to protect your business ideas, so you can share it, attract partners and finally investors.
1- The notebook
The notebook is the documented proof that you have indeed invented your product. It will keep you organized and on track regarding the innovation process. It may also be presented in a court of law as evidence of your work should the paternity of your innovation be contested. Pictures of prototypes, transcripts of conversations, receipts from material you bought can be added to bolster it. It should be a glued paper manuscript so that any alterations, i.e. ripped pages, will be noticed.
Remember: this document will help you defend your rights over your invention for years to come, so put your back into it!
Pro tip: While you can transcript manually, it is easier to type it into Word or Google Doc, leave space for pictures to be glued in afterwards, print it, then book bind it yourself with glue and a sowing neddle. It would have saved me many hours, had i thought about it!
Here is an example how easily it can be done.
2- The provisional patent application
The Provisional Patent Application or PPA as it is known in the United States fall under the United States Patent Trade Office or USPTO. In Quebec, it is known as the “Brevet en instance” and fall under the Canadian Intellectual Property Office or CIPO.
The PPA or Brevet en instance is the start on your road to get the actual patent. While it will not grant you the right to sue any infringers, it will show them that once you get your patent, you will be able to so in the jurisdiction for which it was prepared. It also shows investors that you have a product that cannot be so easily copied without consequences, thus making your company a better investment opportunity.
More on the PPA and Brevet en instance in another post.
More on what is patentable and what is not in another post!
And more on other types of intellectual property in yet another post!
Pro tip: Write it yourself and send a copy to a patent agent for revision. You are the inventor, the most knowledgeable person about your product. There are plenty of great books on the subject and you will save hundred if not thousands of dollars in patent agent or patent attorney fees.
More on this in another post!
Pro tip bonus: Do a preliminary search on the prior art yourself and discuss it with a patent agent. Prior art simply means what has already been invented. Start with Google Image, Amazon and AliExpress. This will give you an idea of what is on the market. No point spending time and money to invent something that already exists, right? This will also give you ideas for variations of your product.
Once you are sure nothing looks like your product, you can do a patent search in the USPTO and CIPO databases. Your results will strengthen your case in front of a patent agent.
More on the patent search in the USPTO and CIPO databases in another post.
3- Dated pictures
The pictures will show the different stages of development of your prototype. It will also show any variations you have thought of. Do not forget to date them and write a little description on the back. Once glued into your notebook, should you have to prove the paternity of your invention, you will be able to remove them and show both date and description in a court of law.
Pro tip: Annotate parts of the invention in the picture. This will help people, including yourself, to understand how your invention works and the names of subcomponents.
With these 3 tips, you will be able to stand tall in front of any patent agent or intellectual property attorney. Companies to which you might licence your future patent (yes it is possible!) will respect you. And potential infringers will think twice before trying anything.
More on licensing agreements in another post.
Remember: what is not protected can be legally stolen.
More on how patent rights can be lost in another post.