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When does it make sense to file a patent?

I heard they are very expensive and they also take a long time to complete from beginning to end. At what point does it make sense follow through with the process?

14 Replies

Johnathan Proffer
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Johnathan Proffer Entrepreneur • Advisor
Software Engineer, Visionary, Entrepreneur
They cost about $3,000 to file yourself, more if with a lawyer. If you believe you have something unique, non-obvious, and marketable, I'd file one as soon as possible. Depending on your market, it could be your ammo against larger companies trying to keep you out of the competition.
Arthur Lipper
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Arthur Lipper Entrepreneur
Chairman of British Far East Holdings Ltd.
The filing of a provisional patent by the highly qualified patent law firm I have used successfully is a simple and relatively quick process. The cost is less than US$5,000 and the time period less than a month. The being "patent pending" frequently allows you to avoid executing Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) Arthur
Christopher Brunner
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Founder - Payments
Art, can you explain why "patent pending" impacts a companies ability to sign an NDA? We are patent pending (as is every start up..:) but sign NDA with some very large partners. Are we at risk?
Thank you - Chris
Dane H. Madsen
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Dane H. Madsen Entrepreneur • Advisor
CEO, SVP Business Development | Domestic & International, Product Marketing | Open to new connections
It also depends on the product in question. If it is software, usually you have changed the platform well before you have had a patent examined. If it is hardware, you should engage the lawyer and ask for them to hire an outside prior art research firm. Usually for less than $2500 you will know if this is actually patentable in the major countries. If it is a method or application of a business model (such as the Amazon One Click Buy) it gets more complex and reasonably more expensive. In one instance, a method and application of a chemical product, we had nearly $200,000 invested in the patent before it was issued.
Shobhit Verma
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Shobhit Verma Entrepreneur • Advisor
building an adaptive recommendation engine
Chris, Not every startup is "Patent pending".
"Patent pending" means that you have applied for a full or provisional patent but your case has not been reviewed yet.
If you have the core IP in the patent pending status then you can talk openly about it, hence you do not need NDAs.
Christopher Brunner
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Founder - Payments
Thank you for the clarification..makes sense..
And I was being fascitious about every start up being patent pending. :)


Thomas Sutrina
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Thomas Sutrina Entrepreneur
Inventor at Retired Pursue Personal interrests and family
A patent give you the right to fill suit for someone using the patent. So the patent needed to have sufficient value, create an income in excess of the cost of creating the patent, defending it against law suits that first it violates other patents or you violated the requirement for filing, and finally define against use of the patent.

Now the last one seems simple to apply but consider that you make multiple products and one of your major customers starts buying a product that violates your patent. If you demand they stop they could and most likely stop purchasing ALL YOUR PRODUCTS. I have talked to one customer when I worked for a consulting design firm that found them self in this situation. Also your customer may use the violating product to get you to reduce your price. And if they are your major customer then the loss of sales will effect your ability to defend the patent.

Now I am not against patents and in fact I have about three dozen patents, but you need to understand the limits.
Scott McGregor
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Scott McGregor Entrepreneur • Advisor
Advisor, co-founder, consultant and part time executive to Tech Start-ups. Based in Silicon Valley.
In the US, it makes sense to read "Patent Pending in 24 hours" immediately. It is a quick read and you will have a very good idea what a patent will do for you, what it won't do for you, and the knowledge you get for the cost of the book will cost you hundreds if you have a patent attorney advising you without this basic understanding. It is relatively inexpensive to file a provisional patent yourself, and buy yourself another year to decide whether spending more time and expense on filing and prosecuting a patent through completion is valuable or not. Scott McGregor, [removed to protect privacy], (408) 505-4123 www.smcgregor.com Sent from my iPhone
Chris Kwan
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Chris Kwan Entrepreneur
Advocate, Barrister, Solicitor & Registered Patent Agent & Migration Agent Australia (MARN 1576447)
I have about 10 US Patents from over 30 patent applications. Whenever people asked me how long and the costs it took me, I tell them average about 7-12 years and the costs of a new BMW for each but not that I mind as I did all the prosecution myself. My first patent application in 1999 is also the last to been granted a patent in 2014 just before "Alice" was decided at the Supreme Court. See US Patent 8650126 or http://patft1.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?patentnumber=8650126. I took everything the USPTO could legally dish at me, including an examiner who personally told me that he will never issue this patent as long as he is the examiner (vide a telephone call). I went to the Board and there was a 2.5 years waiting time to be heard. I learn a lot from USPTO's examiners and the system. However the issue is that the patent system in the US had changed so much since 1999 when I started, that in my view it is a very difficult area now for small time inventors when it comes to securing a patent and enforcement. The enforcement part has new rules (currently also being challenged in the Supreme Court). My personal advice and is not legal advice here is that if you are a startup in the software or hardware space, file a provisional (you can do this yourself as there is no CLAIMS made at this stage). I have seen a provisional application in the form of lines of code filed by a major bank in the US. Assuming your invention is at least "novel" (you need to conduct prior art search), and if you think others will (must) use your method, system or product and you have spare cash (like 25% of your overall budget) then file a non-provisional at the end of 12 mths. Remember your CLAIMS is most important, have more eyes to check them before filing. Once you file a provisional, you don't need a NDA and in fact you should market or advertise as much as you can to check market interest. But be prepared to understand how patent applications are prosecuted by the USPTO as you need to spend a lot of time reading the prior arts and giving comments back to your lawyer to draft responses once the examination starts.
Don Rector
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Don Rector Entrepreneur
Managing ground travel for the Business Traveler
I have absolutely no idea what patent law in Russia is all about, but for the US it is a bit difficult and can be expensive. If you are filling a patent, as a start-up which could effect the competitive nature of a large company's offering, it can get VERY expensive. To begin with you can file an interim patent that is good for one year. This is very inexpensive, but is really nothing more than a place holder. Even before you look at an interim patent, you need to find out if your idea is patentable. That type of prior art search is going to be in the order of five to 100 hours of people time. If the attorney, even an associate, is going to do the search, you are probably looking at $200 to $600 per hour. Typically around $350 per hour. This is before you decide to patent your idea. Remember, by law, the details of your product are made totally public when you patent the idea. As I stated early, this is when a large company can bury you in paper work. They can financially brake your company and it is all legal. So consider carefully if you want to patent or hold as closely guarded IP. In many cases that is actually a better way to go. *Thanks,~Don*
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