Every day people are coming up with new and innovative ideas to change the world. It might be a revolutionary new transport system, or the latest breakfast-making alarm clock that also brushes your teeth for you. In an ideal world it would be nice to share these with interested companies and get them created. However all it takes is a less than honest company to examine it thoroughly, say they’re not interested and then create it for themselves. To stop this happening and to retain control over our intellectual property we can get a patent.
So what is a patent?
According to the USPTO, a patent “..is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States“. They are normally valid for 20 years from the date it was first issued.
How do I apply for a patent?
In the United States you need to apply for a patent with the USPTO at one of their regional offices. There are forms to fill out, fees to pay and you also need to make sure that your invention or idea is able to be patented. This may involve searching the archives yourself first in order to make sure that your idea is unique. It is often recommended to hire an expert searcher to help with this aspect as searching through these archives is not an easy process.
A filing fee must also be paid when applying which is non refundable even if your application is unsuccessful.
How to sell a patent?
There are two main options for making money by selling –
Assign ownership to someone else:
The first option is selling outright, and assigning full legal ownership to someone else. This can be done in full or you can sell off percentages of the patent. For example two people might own 50% each. If one part wished to sell their share then they could. Partial shares can also be sold. So you could sell a third of your patent to one buyer, a third to another and retain one third for yourself.
License the patent for production by someone else:
The second option is licensing rights so that someone else may legally produce, or distribute the patent you own. This involves some sort of contract and a period of time in which the patent can be used by a third party. The main advantage of this option is that you retain full ownership of the patent.