How Can I Protect My Idea with a Patent?
So, you’ve got an incredible idea for a new product and you’re looking to protect it. After all, you’re the one that thought of it, so it should be you who succeeds in starting the business. Sure, you could keep it close to your chest, but you want to tell the world about it, don’t you?
The first thing you need to ask yourself, is whether you actually need copyright or a patent. Some people think they’re pretty much the same thing, but in reality, they’re defined differently, are treated differently and will give you a different type of protection.
The key distinction is that a patent is used to protect a unique invention, whereas copyright is used to protect the expression of an idea, such as an artistic work. If your idea truly is an innovation, then you’ll likely want to apply for a patent. Copyright simply won’t protect you well enough.
Do Your Research
While it isn’t essential, it’s helpful to take the time to search existing patents to ensure that your idea doesn’t overlap with anything that’s already been patented. If it does, your patent application will likely be unsuccessful. When you speak to a patent lawyer, the first thing they’ll ask you is whether you’ve done your research on existing patents.
The First Steps
When you engage a patent lawyer, they’ll begin writing your patent application with your input. Generally speaking, you’ll start by submitting an Australian provisional patent application, which will cover you for a period of 12 months. It’s such a common way to start the process because a provisional patent isn’t as expensive as the alternatives and it doesn’t lock you into any long-term commitments. You don’t want to secure a 20-year patent for an invention unless you’re sure that you’ll get many years’ worth of value out of it.
Once you’ve secured your provisional patent, you can go public with your invention. You’re free to publish, sell and lease the concept without affecting your patent rights.
But What Kind of Patent Do I Need?
If you decide to follow up your provisional patent with more extensive coverage, you’ve got a few options. There are three types of patents for you to choose from; each of which will have their own associated costs and protection.
A standard patent is the most commonly used variation. It gives you long-term protection and control over an invention for up to 20 years. Due to the length of protection, a standard patent doesn’t come cheap and can take anywhere from six months to multiple years to be approved. Your application will be thoroughly examined by Intellectual Property Australia and assessed on a number of key criteria.
But if your idea is a game changer and you need protection as soon as possible, you should consider applying for an innovation patent. This type of patent exists to protect incremental advances on existing technologies that may not be eligible for standard patents, rather than game-changing inventions.
Once again, there’s specific criteria that you need to fulfil to be eligible. Yet if you meet the criteria, you can expect to have your patent approved within a month of applying. An innovation patent will only last eight years but is a more inexpensive avenue to go down.
Finally, for worldwide protection, you can apply for an international patent. This can be a much more expensive option, so you may want to consider just applying for patents in the countries in which you intend to operate. Yet for the most comprehensive cover possible, you can’t go past filing an international patent application under the Patent Cooperation Treaty, which covers 152 countries in total.
There’s a lot to consider when it comes to patents. They’re not cheap and it can be confusing to know which one you need. We work with an Intellectual Property lawyer on a regular basis who can guide you in the right direction.
If you’re unsure about what you need or whether you need to patent your idea at all, contact us. We can guide you in the right direction.