What To Consider Before Applying For A Patent
What exactly does unique mean?
Anyone who has come up with what they consider a brilliant idea that they think no one else has ever had – or at least ever done something about – will, and should, have thought about getting it patented. The trouble is, with eight billion people in the world, the chances of your idea being unique are actually quite slim. For example, many people want their primary email address to be their name @ whichever email company they want to use. Obviously email@example.com is going to have been grabbed by another John Smith many years ago, which is why well-known people whose name is their calling card will sometimes resort to therealjohnsmith or johnsmith1966 and so on.
Even if you have a name that you think must be quite rare, because it’s an uncommon last name and perhaps a first name from a different language, say, Vladimir Esposito, you may well find there is someone out there whose name is exactly that, or who is using that name for whatever reason. So it’s not unique, and you’re going to have to be vladimirgivemeabreak firstname.lastname@example.org.
That word, “unique” is crucial here, because unique is an absolute. If something is unique, it is a one-off. There is nothing exactly like it.
There are no degrees of uniqueness, and when you see something described as “pretty unique” or “more unique”, that’s just wrong. It is either unique or it isn’t.
In order to establish if something is unique, it is necessary to undertake what is known as due diligence, which means researching the subject in as much detail as you can. The term due diligence is heard in arenas such as the sporting world when, for instance, a club is up for sale and the current owner must check out potential buyers to see if everything is above board and no nasty legal matters are going to crawl out of the woodwork and scupper the deal. You need to do the same.
Consider International Implications
Whatever it is you want to patent, it is wise to think about the name as it will be seen in other cultures. So, check out what it means in Spanish, Arabic etc. and in any territory where you plan to market it.
Look out for trademark squatters
Some people attempt to make money by registering a name, even when they don’t intend to use it, with the idea of getting paid to sell it when a genuine attempt is made to use that name. It’s better to find this out in advance and either use something different or prepare a strategy to deal with the issue.
Keep it quiet until the last minute
Letting information out about what you have yet to patent can lead to problems, so keep it to yourself. The publicity can happen once it’s all done and dusted.
Beware of the giants
If what you are patenting is going to be seen by a well-established company as treading on their territory, they will employ the best legal help they can find to squash your innovation completely, or at least make life difficult for you. You will need a lawyer of your own to make sure your case is watertight.
Attention to detail
Make sure you describe your invention in minute detail, to avoid having others getting the general idea and coming up with a competing product that doesn’t technically infringe your patent but to all intents and purposes uses your work. The more complex your area of expertise, the more careful you have to be. If you’re working in the realms of scientific research into DNA, for instance, you’re going to need to pay attention to sequence listing, and you will need to find help from people who can understand the concept.
Prepare for the worst and hope for the best
There is money to be made by patenting things, but remember it can be a minefield, so give this as much time as it needs and get the best help you can afford. And good luck out there!
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