An Entrepreneur’s Patent Strategy Timeline

If you are an entrepreneur working on a big idea a patent strategy that follows your innovation process may be best. There is usually some trial and error in the innovation process where products get designed and revised. Early adopter feedback often changes product features and the business model can evolve over time.

Avoid jumping in too quickly and making commitments to high-priced attorneys and application filing fees. It is easy to run-up the cost and blow the budget if you dive-in and patent your first iteration. Early ideas are seldom refined final ideas and patenting too early can leave your final design excluded from your patent application and your product unprotected. Instead, let your patent strategy follow your product development cycle.

Here are five product development milestones to consider that will help inform your patent strategy timeline.

+ NEW IDEA | You just had a great idea. Now the first step is to get organized. Write down your idea, draw pictures, keep a running list of features as you think of them. Focus on how your idea is different and better than competing products?

+ BEFORE SHARING | Stop! Consider converting your notes, drawings, and other materials into a provisional patent application and get it filed before sharing your idea with external developers, potential customers, investors, and others. Once bitten, twice shy they say, right?

Provisional patent applications have lots of benefits including recording a filing date, granting a 12-month patent pending status, they are low cost, and they can serve as a stepping stone for future patent filings.

+ DESIGN DRAWINGS COMPLETE | When final drawings are done it is time to consider filing a design patent that protects how your product “looks”. Design patents can protect ornamental shapes, enclosures, ergonomic product designs, and much more. They are in the medium-cost range, less than a utility patent, and in many cases, your 3D CAD models can be converted into patent drawings to save drafting costs.

+ BEFORE YOUR PROVISIONAL EXPIRES | Remember provisional applications pend for 12 months from the filing date and then expire. Before that happens consider filing a utility patent that protects how your product “works”. Devices, systems, methods of use, software algorithms, compositions, and more can be patented. You can claim the earlier filing date benefit of your unexpired provisional patent application.

+ PRODUCT LAUNCH & BEYOND | As your product launch approaches and beyond, it is time to think about expanding your patent portfolio. Consider additional patent filings to protect current and future product variations.


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