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25th April 2012 (0 Comments)

When to File a Patent Application – The Aha! Point

 

The process of innovation is a process of coming to understand a particular technical area and problems and unmet needs in that technical area, becoming familiar with the Adjacent Possible if you please, and then conceiving a solution to a particular problem or a way to provide the as yet unmet need.

 

The focus has to be on one problem or one unmet need, and one solution.  Patents are granted throughout the world in a very focused way:  One patent for one solution to one problem.  You can waste your resources if you like creating a patent application that is voluminous, discusses a technical area very broadly, points out many problems in the technology, and describes a broad range of possible solutions to the many problems, each of which may in fact be a patentable invention.  You can write claims as well to each and every one of the inventions in such a patent application if you wish.  But when the application is examined you will be forced to pick one of the several inventions, and just the claims that relate to that invention, as the focus of the application.  In most of the world it is called “unity of invention”.  Examiners will point out that your claims to different inventions lack unity, and you will be required to cancel all claims except those that claim the one invention of the several that you decide is most important to you.  In some jurisdictions you may be required as well to delete text and drawings describing inventions that are not claimed.

In just about all patent jurisdictions you will be variably charged for filing your application according to the number of pages of specification, the number of claims you file and the number of drawings that you file to support the description.  At the point of first examination all of the voluminous material that describes, supports and claims all of the inventions other than the one invention that solves one problem become superfluous.  The point here is that the scattergun approach is wasteful and in direct conflict to your goal of a patented invention.  The time for focus is at the start, not years later at the point of first examination.

 

In the general process of innovation there is a point in time where you conceive something that may be a new and non-obvious contribution to the current state of the art in the particular technical area.  I call this the AHA! point.  You have been focused on a particular problem or need, and have been considering possible solutions, and at some point things seem to fall into place. This is the point of invention, and this is the point at which you should plug into the process of getting a patent application prepared and filed for that one invention that is the solution to that one problem.

 

There is a closely related misunderstanding in considering patents that I need to address right here.  That is the commonly held belief that you need to thoroughly test a potential invention to be sure it works, perhaps to prototype it, make a working model and perhaps solicit expert opinions from others as to whether this may really be a good idea.  This notion wastes much time and money.  Unless you are trying to deal with perpetual motion or anti-gravity through levitation, no patent jurisdiction will ever ask to see a working model.  Patent examining authorities have too much to do to try to investigate the workability of each and every invention filed as a patent application.  The vast majority of patent applications everywhere in the world describe inventions that have never been prototyped or tested.  They are called “paper patents” by many.  But paper patents are as valid and enforceable as patents for inventions that are a part of products that have been developed and sold.

The foundation block is:

 

Once you have conceived an invention, and you can imagine various ways it may be applied, it is time to initiate the process of preparing and filing your patent application.  Do not delay if you believe you have a valuable invention.  Filing date is all important.

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