6 Most Common Patent Mistakes Made by Small Businesses

As we enter a new year, it’s important to take stock of what worked for you in 2020 and what didn’t. There are plenty of business owners who simply are not ready to give up on their ideas. This is why they try to patent them.

Patent law is complex enough that people inevitably face difficulty when they try to do it themselves. For some, it is best to invest the money and call up an intellectual property lawyer Houston. For others, it is better to invest time into educating themselves on patents.

Without knowing anything upfront, the language of patent law can be tough to decipher. However, it’s a process of understanding. As you gain understanding, you’ll find patent law will make more sense. For a head start, here are 10 of the most common mistakes that small businesses make when trying to patent their ideas:

Mistake 1: Not Having Enough Money

Filing a patent is a substantial business expense. It’s no different from, say, a startup cost. Depending on the size of your business, and the kind of patent you’re applying for, the initial filing fee with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) ranges from $45 to $280. Some pay for 

This is not the only fee you need to pay for your patent. In the United States, patents last 20 years from the date of filing. To keep your patent active for these 20 years, the USPTO requires three maintenance payments at different intervals: one at 3-3.5 years after issuance ($500 to $2000); another at 7-7.5 years ($940 to $3760); and the last at 11-11.5 years ($1925 to $7700). If you’re late, expect to pay more.

In the long run, the total USPTO fees can run you up to a low 5 figures in expenses, so be careful to prepare and budget accordingly.

When working with a patent attorney, they’ll also charge more for their time and expertise in research, patent searches, and filing the patent on your behalf.

Mistake 2: Not Clearly Describing Your Invention

To make it distinguishable and clear that it is novel, the language of a patent must be very clear. Whether it’s about the design or function, the written description must go to great detail to paint a complete picture of the unique functions and attributes of the design. Otherwise, either the invention will be unpatentable, or it will be found ineligible after filing.

Mistake 3: Not Doing a Patent Search

You don’t know if your invention is unique until you know something about the market. With a patent search, you take a deeper look at existing patents and whether a similar invention or concept has been patented.

Even with successfully registered patents, not doing a search will risk you a loss of revenue to your invention due to similarity, or even later rejection of your registration.

Mistake 4: Doing a Patent Search Yourself

Doing only a patent search is not an end-all be-all to determine whether your invention is truly unique. To know exactly where you stand, you must also research the overall market in your niche. That will give you a much better idea of whether you can effectively monetize your product over the competition.

This is where an attorney can help.

Mistake 5: Not Sure What Problem The Patent Is Solving

Patent examiners and courts must be clear on the problem you are solving with the invention you want a patent on. By definition, in business, every product or service is created to solve a problem. People pay money for a product or service to solve a problem – any problem, from emotional wants, to physiological needs.

When a business comes up with a new way to solve a problem, it becomes their unique competitive advantage, placing them above others in the market. As competitors lose out, they may find ways to copy or reverse-engineer your unique solution.

A patent is a tool to protect your unique solution. If you are not clear about the practical problem your invention is solving, and it is not the “ultimate” way to solve the problem – especially at a level of convenience never before known to the general public – patent examiners may not like your patent, and you’ll have less of a fighting chance in litigation.

Mistake 6: Patenting a Trade Secret

After successful registration, every patent becomes available to the public for viewing and patent searches. If you have a unique process that you wish to never disclose to the public for the life of the product, it is advisable to not patent it. These things are known as trade secrets. Patents do protect your unique product or design from competitor theft; but remember, they can only do so for up to 20 years. Once the patent expires, you cannot file for the same invention again; you can only file for an improvement or modification to the invention.

Hence, after expiration, your unique invention becomes common knowledge, allowing anyone to copy it. Coca-Cola has been successful in marketing their product without fail since 1891, more than a century ago. They have done so by keeping their recipe secret. From a marketing standpoint, this makes their product perpetually unique, as while many have tried to duplicate the Coca-Cola taste, no one has yet been able to make an exact copy of the Coca-Cola formula and its taste. 

The secret formula propelled Coke to the top of the soft drinks market. It is inseparable from their brand – and the Coca-Cola brand is arguably their most profitable and unbreakable marketing asset.

This would not be possible if Coca-Cola had tried to patent its formula.

What is the patenting process, then?

Now that you understand the mistakes people make when trying to file patents, the next step is to research the patent process for yourself, or better yet, with enough funds, save considerable time by hiring a Houston patent lawyer.

DISCLAIMER: Neither the writers of this article, nor the owners of this site, are registered to practice law. Nothing on this post is to be construed as legal advice. It is for informational and educational purposes only.