If you want a legal monopoly over an innovation there is no better way to achieve it than a patent.
Patents help you protect your creativity against copycat “me too” offerings. They last for up to 20 years.
Patent protection excludes others from using or selling the subject matter of your patented invention. They are a powerful monopoly right provided the patent specification is well drafted. It mustn’t be easy to design around. So, drafting your own patent may not be such a good idea.
For product-based businesses, like Mandy Haberman’s Anywayup Cup, a patent is essential. As soon as manufacturers found out about her popular innovative baby cup they began copying it. Because she had a patent, she was able to put a stop to the copying. Otherwise, it would have been impossible for her business to compete against the big boys once they wanted to develop similar cups. Her patent was effective because it prevented other manufacturers designing around it.
How to patent your idea
Essential to patentability is secrecy. If you disclose your invention in public before filing a patent application, you lose your right to patent it. Steve Jobs made this classic mistake when he unveiled a feature of Apple’s then-new iPhone by saying “And boy, have we patented it.” In fact, the application hadn’t yet been filed so Apple lost the opportunity to patent that feature.
Although you don’t need to have a finished product in order to secure a patent, you need more than a mere idea. There are various requirements to patentability. For example, minor improvements to an existing product or process won’t secure patent protection. There is more information here on our patents page.
However a patent may not always be the right answer to protect your business. For example, a recipe like the Coca Cola formula was protected through trade secrets. By opting to keep the formula confidential rather than disclosing it in a patent application, Coca Cola has managed to keep its recipe a secret for over a hundred years. If it had opted for a patent Coca Cola’s patent monopoly would have lasted just 20 years. By now everyone would have been able to freely copy the formula. This is a good example of how it is possible to protect an idea or concept through various intellectual property rights. So, it’s essential to take advice and be strategic about IP protection.