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Want to Patent an Idea? Consider These 3 Tips

Don't allow your misconceptions and fear to keep you from filing a patent application. Consider these three tips.

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As I sat at my kitchen table excitedly sketching what I envisioned as the product I was looking for, but couldn't find, I thought about patenting that idea. I wasn't even finished with my sketches when this thought crossed my mind. But I knew this product would solve my problem of keeping stray hairs from transferring from my hairbrush to the contents of my purse, while also keeping things organized. I also knew that if it solved this problem for me, it would solve the same problem for many others.

I put that theory to the test by conducting three different surveys amongst strangers. I received nothing but positive feedback and a few tips as far as colors and prints. I asked for women to take the surveys, but a few men joined in, which was very encouraging. At that point, I felt confident in preparing to move forward with filing an application to patent my idea. I was so excited that I shared my plans with an associate. She didn’t feel that I would receive a patent for my idea. But, the optimist in me did, and I moved forward.

Although my associate didn't give me a reason for feeling the way she did, through conversations with other individuals over the years, I am aware that there are people who have reservations when it comes to applying for a patent. The reservations vary. Some people feel their application won't be approved, so they don't try. But, according to the most recent statistics from the USPTO, about 52% of all patents filed in the U.S. are approved. In 2020, 646,244 patent applications were filed and 388,900 were approved. That's a good approval rate.

There's also the idea of not being able to afford a patent attorney. If they file an application without using an attorney, the process will be a difficult one for them, and they think no one will buy their product, they won't be able to sell their product while their application is pending, etc. 

Don't allow your misconceptions and fear to keep you from filing a patent application. Consider these three tips:

1. Just do it

Like the Nike slogan says, "Just Do It." Don’t deprive yourself of what could possibly be the next great thing. While you're hesitating, that idea you have could make such a positive difference in so many people's lives. Filing a patent application is not difficult, but as with anything else, you have to make sure you have all your "I"s dotted and all your "T"s crossed. Before even getting to the point of filing an application, make sure you do your research by using the USPTO website, as well as Google, to make sure your idea doesn’t already exist. If applying on your own is too overwhelming for you, hire an attorney. There are affordable patent and trademark attorneys out there. UpCounsel has great patent and trademark lawyers, and they are affordable.

Related: 5 Things Every Entrepreneur Should Consider Before Filing a Patent

2. Ask for other people's opinions

Don’t sell yourself short. To put your concern of "will anyone buy my product?" to rest, let your family, friends and colleagues know about your idea, and get their thoughts on it. Have them sign a non-disclosure agreement first. SurveyMonkey is one of the resources I used when conducting my surveys. You can also use SurveySparrow. Through sharing your ideas with others, they might give you the confidence you need to move forward with applying for a patent. Another benefit is that you might also receive tips that can help improve your idea and make it even more marketable.

Related: 3 Basics for Filing a Patent That Actually Has Value

3. Sell your product

Another misconception is that you can't sell your product while your patent application is pending. That's absolutely false. It is not a requirement to patent a product or service pertaining to an invention before you can sell it. The U.S. law provides a 12-month "grace period" to file for patent protection after a public use or sale.

Nothing happens overnight. Don’t be disappointed when you don't get as many sales as you would like. You have a new product that no one, or not many people, know about. I personally find that marketing is the most difficult part of the journey, but don’t let that discourage you. Try to be creative with your marketing plan, and if that doesn’t work, keep trying different things until you find what works best for your product.

There's this meme I came across on Instagram years ago, and it was labeled "Where it all started." It showed how Apple, Google and Amazon started out in a garage. Harley and Disney started out in small shacks, and Mattel started out in a very small building as well. The point is, they all started small and slow, and it took them years to start what we all now know as huge brands. Don't rush it. I've learned more patience and to appreciate trial and error. Enjoy the ride and learn as much as you can.

Related: Protecting Your Critical Inventions On A Tight Budget

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