Most lawyers and business people know enough to call a patent attorney when they’re in trouble—they’ve been sued or threatened with a patent infringement suit, or a competitor is infringing their patent.

The harder question is when to call a patent attorney for help in patenting new or improved technologies.

Here’s the key: Do you think a patent is likely to help you meet your business goals?

Do you think a patent will give you a competitive advantage?

wheelhouse, in your, vintage ship wheelHere are a few good indicators for entering the patent process:

  1. You are already in the business—you know the field—you know the technology—you know your customers’ needs;
  2. You have a pretty fully developed invention—more than just an “idea” or mere concept—you may even have built a prototype and tried it out;
  3. You’re planning to commercialize, i.e., make and sell products using the technology—you plan to practice the invention—it’s in your core competence and line of business, i.e., it’s in your wheelhouse; and
  4. You are prepared to make the investment in patent protection, say, $20,000 for preparation and filing of a good, thorough utility patent application—and you’re willing to stick with it for a month of preparation plus two or three years of prosecution, taking at least one Patent Office rejection in stride.

You might be too smart

Ironically, the more qualified you and your invention are for patent protection, the less likely you are to call a patent attorney.

Why is this? It’s usually because you and your technical people are too sophisticated. The new improvement is obvious to you. You haven’t fully perfected it. You don’t know if it will succeed.

The new improvement is obvious to you

So you don’t pick up the phone.

Horse galloping from barnYou let the horse out of the barn.

If it’s successful, it will be copied.

Good inventions are copied

And by then, it’s often too late.

Pick up the phone

When you have a new or improved product, pick up the phone and call a patent attorney before you launch the product.