Patent essentials

Glenn W. Peterson

Inventors and entrepreneurs in California have good reason to want to protect their businesses from unnecessary or unfair competition. In some cases, the way to do this is to secure specific intellectual property protections. These include copyrights, trademarks and service marks. Patents are another form of intellectual property that may give an inventor the ability to get a new product off the ground. However, it is important to understand how patents work to know when seeking one makes sense and when it may not.

As explained by Entrepreneur magazine, the road to being granted a patent may be long and expensive. For this reason, it is essential to identify the true need involved in seeking a patent. A utility patent, which is granted for an invention based on its function, lasts 20 years from the date for which the patent was first filed. The receipt of the actual patent can eat up several of those years, not to mention thousands of dollars.

According to CNBC, some companies may be better served by investing their time and money into active marketing of their invention rather than securing a patent. Other companies, however, that want to license an invention to another company, might benefit from a patent as it provides some reassurance to a licensee.

One alternative to filing for a full patent is to file for a provisional patent initially. This gives inventors 12 months before they need to file for a full patent. During this time, they can clarify their true need for a patent yet get the process started.