Patenting And Protecting Your Invention
Patenting And Protecting Your Invention
Spencer Brown (Inventor And Founder) gives expert video advice on: How do I patent my idea?; Why is it important to apply for a patent?; What's the difference between a US patent and a foreign patent? and more...
What's the difference between a US patent and a foreign patent?
When you apply for a Patent you're given a Patent in America, and that Patent protects your rights here in the U.S., in addition, to protecting an importer from knocking your product off and entering it. And what's unique about inventors, is that, if you have a really unique product and you start selling it in mass production cycle. Meaning, you're selling it all over America. There is a guarantee that somebody oversees will see the marketability and see what you're charging and he'll flood the marketplace with an import. A U.S. Patent protects you from that, as long as you are doing a research and you'll see the knock-offs, and you have to figure out who made it, who shipped it, and then, you hear about these custom's seizings. You know, they'll seize boatload's of product and saying this is a blatant knock-off of a protected product in America. You don't hear too many of those stories, but occasionally you hear one make it to the surface. A U.S. Patent protects you here in America. A foreign Patent is very time consuming and costly to obtain, because you have to now, have Patent protection overseas. So, you need to actually take the same Patent process, and then you need to apply, rather than, each one of the foreign countries, you can get what they call is a "general, foreign, application Patent So that covers you for the European communities. It does not cover you for Latin America. It does not cover you in Russia. So, what you need to do is, get a foreign for Europe, and then you need to get another Patent over in the Asian countries. And by the time you spend all of this time and money, by then your product's morphed a couple of times or it might have shifted, the consumer's not interested. Or a better product has come to market to compete wih yours. So I tell people, as long as you have a U.S. patent, and you can get to market first, get a foreign Patent but it's not imperative, and it's time consuming and expensive.
What kinds of confidentiality releases protect my invention?
When you're communicating your product, you need to be protected, and three of the forms that are most used are your non-disclosure, which means if I share this idea with you, you will not tell anybody. I call it the "hush-hush form," I call it the "super secret" "loose lips sink ships" form. Non-disclosure is like, you sign this and you cannot tell anybody about this idea. Pretty simple. Then you have what is called a non-circumvention form. Non-circumvention is a tricky contract but the premise is that if you sign it, you cannot go around me to another competitor and share or sell my idea to him. You have to go through me, I own this right. You can't circumvent me. So we've got non-disclosure, non-circumvention and non-compete. Non-compete is if I share the idea with you, and then you are making the widget next week -- that doesn't work for me and you signed a form that says you can't compete with me. Non-competes are really designed when people are working in your company and they are very privy to your inventive process. Non-competes are really best designed for inventions that are systems. And I know people say, "How can a system be patented?" There could be a very unique process in your organization that makes it unique, and that is patentable. It's tough to get, but you can get it, and that is called a non-compete. So, if you go to a company and you are working for an inventor and he has you sign a Non-disclosure, a non-circumvention and a non-compete, the compete clause is to prevent you from competing with him. It's also used in manufacturing. So as an inventor, many times I don't make the product. I have somebody else make it. If a manufacturer makes my product, I must have, every year, an updated non-compete. They are making my product. What will prevent them from selling it? The non-compete clause.
Should I sue someone who steals my invention?
Here's the issue with patent suits. OK, patents have always been a very gray area. It's so gray; you can't call it black and white. It's a gray aspect of law. Because what you're saying is, "I want protective rights for my unique idea." But the reality is that your idea is unique — only as unique, as the nuances of it. There could be a minor change. And somebody can also apply for a patent, and be granted it. But usually that doesn't happen. Someone just knocks you off. They say, "You know what? There's a great idea you're making here in America. I can offshore it in China, and I can undercut you." And by the time the marketplace is flooded, you're suing him and he's made all the money. Well, why not just turn the tables against that concept and say, "Why don't I flood the market?" I'm the inventor. I know the customer, because I've done my research. I've got my feedback loops in place. And I'm going to saturate the market. And I'm going to fight for the customer. I'm going to provide them a better product, at a cheaper price. And my competitor, he's not going to be able to take a customer away from me. Fight for the customer. Don't fight court. It doesn't make any sense.