How can I cheaply protect an idea that I have before I pitch it? 6 Answers as of July 26, 2011

I have an idea and it is great. I searched the patent office over7500 patents and did not see mine. I would like to pitch but need to protect it. What can I do? What if I cannot afford a patent?

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Kafantaris Law Group
Kafantaris Law Group | Theo Kafantaris
Your best bet is to file a provisional patent application (PPA). They can be drafted quickly, have a low cost, and enable you to be patent pending. Feel free to contact me if you would like to proceed with a PPA.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 7/26/2011
DANIEL NESBITT | Hasse & Nesbitt
Perhaps your great idea is also a great invention. Ideas themselves are not protectable by patent, but the embodiment of an idea in the form of a product, device, composition or its method of use or making, may be patentable if novel and non-obvious over the prior art. I suggest you contact my office or another patent attorney for assistance in assessing these points.
Answer Applies to: Ohio
Replied: 1/25/2011
Michael M. Ahmadshahi
Michael M. Ahmadshahi | Michael M. Ahmadshahi, Ph.D., Esq.
The least expensive way of protecting your idea while disclosing it to the public is to use a Confidentiality and Nondisclosure Agreement, commonly referred to as an NDA. The second least expensive way is to file a provisional patent application through which you obtain a patent pending number and your idea is fully protected for one year.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 1/19/2011
Mark S. Hubert PC
Mark S. Hubert PC | Mark Hubert
Without a patent you cannot protect the idea. Yes you may make all sorts of public disclosures so that no one else can get a patent but after 1 year of that it is in the public domain and you cant get a patent either or stop anyone from using it. I would suggest that you call our office to discuss the cost of a patent and perhaps get on a longer term payment plan.
Answer Applies to: Oregon
Replied: 1/19/2011
Devon & Associates
Devon & Associates | Marcia A. Devon
Some inventors use a confidential disclosure agreement [which should be signed by each individual to whom you disclose your design] to provide some protection while they are deciding whether to obtain a patent. I recommend that you save the results of your searching so that a patent attorney or professional searcher can see what you have previously searched. Devon & Associates offers two different levels of patent searching.

If you cannot afford a patent, others will be free to copy and sell your design. I recommend consulting a patent attorney to discuss your options.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 1/19/2011
    Fish & Associates, PC
    Fish & Associates, PC | Robert D. Fish
    You should file a provisional application. The filing fee is only $105 for an individual or other small entity, and the provisional can be as "thin" as a few paragraphs and a sketch or two. The downside is that such an application generally discloses little more than the preferred embodiments, and is probably insufficient from written description and/or enablement standpoints to support broad claims in a later-filed utility application. In other words, you would think you are putting a line in the sand, when in fact your application is substantially useless.

    The better approach is to go to an attorney, and get a decent provisional on file for about $3500. That would include preliminary searching and brainstorming of the claimable subject matter, and drafting and filing of the application. After that you would have a year to file a utility application that claims priority to the provisional, which would run another $5,000 to $6,000. There are attorneys that will write a full blown utility for $3500, and we can recommend a few such attorneys to you, but there again you are probably fooling yourself.

    Failure to file a patent application early in the game will likely result in your donating the idea to the public. Note that technically you have a one-year window in the U.S. between public disclosure, sale or offer to sell and the deadline for filing your patent application. But waiting out that year is dangerous because someone else might file in the interim, and there is a presumption that whoever filed first invented first.

    Note that you don't necessarily have to file a patent application at all. You can go into the marketplace without a patent or patent application, and in fact there is a new book out where the author touts the benefits of just that approach (Don't File a Patent by John Smith). I suspect that Mr. Smith is biased by having dealt with a rotten attorney, but he has a point, and in many instances, depending on the nature of the invention, aspects of the marketplace and other factors, is quite correct.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/19/2011
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