Patents are an essential part of recognition. If you don’t legally attach your name and efforts to a patent, it is incredibly easy for someone else to come along and claim ownership of your idea and your genius. This means that every time you have a one-of-a-kind idea, you should seek out a patent lawyer and file it as your own, right? Wrong!
The process required to obtain a patent can be lengthy, costly, and incredibly risky: only 2% to 10% of patented inventions go on to make money. You need to seriously consider your plan of action — and whether or not it’s a worthwhile investment — before seeking out patent attorneys or legal advice. At the same time, extensive research is recommended: what kind of claim are you looking to file, what market exists for your invention, will someone invest in its production? Patents generally cover a period of 20 years, but is the cost of protection going to be worth it?
Oftentimes, entrepreneurs patent inventions without knowing if the project will lead to business success. In fact, pharmaceutical companies are guilty of this: they spend millions and millions of dollars obtaining patents before they ever know whether the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will allow it to be sold. The difference is that Big Pharma can afford to take risks that may not pay off. They’re independently funded, often through grants and universities, offering a seemingly unlimited amount of money to pull from; when it becomes clear a drug is not going to gain approval, it is dropped and the funds are then applied toward other inventions that show more promise. To obtain a patent for a company with limitless funding is more of an afterthought than a focus.
Most inventors don’t come from or have the kind of financial backing that drug development research corporations have. Before you drop your life’s savings to patent and put an invention up for sale, do the math; weight your options and your odds, and consult a patent or trademark lawyer for advice. They’ve usually been in the business long enough to know a winner when they see one.