Saturday, 7 February 2009

How to Protect Your Million Dollar Idea?

Once you've come up with tentatively satisfying answers to the originality, production and distribution, and saleability questions, it's time to consider protecting your idea. After all, it looks like you have something.

If you do have a patentable item, it's time to look into trying to protect it under the patent laws. Here briefly are the steps you'll need to follow:

* Obtain a patent information booklet that is available through the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO). They can be contacted by looking up their phone number in the government listings in your telephone directory. In addition or as an alternative, contact your local library for publications that they may have on the subject.
* Contact an organization such as a Research Council to have what is referred to as a "State of the Art" search done. This is a type of patent search that does not have the depth nor does it go back as far in time as a proper patent search, but it can help to give you a starting point from which to proceed. If you are going to proceed with this, you will have to be prepared to provide enough description of the item and its intended use so that an accurate description can be communicated to the Canadian Intellectual Property Office of Industry Canada.
* Contact a patent attorney or agent to discuss the intricacies of the patent process and the potential costs of this process. The patent office will accept an application for a patent only from the inventor or from a recognized patent attorney or agent. You will want to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of attempting to put an application together yourself or using professional services that have experience in this field.
* Having a patent won't mean you have absolute protection. In fact, one survey found that in over 70% of the infringement cases brought by patent holders to protect their patents, the patent itself was held invalid.
* Defending your patent can be very expensive. If you don't have a patent, however, the probability of successfully protecting your invention approaches zero.
* Mere ideas or suggestions can't be patented. Some of these you may be able to put in patentable form, but for those that you can't it's pretty much do-it-yourself. Consult with a patent attorney/agent or the patent office about the classes of patentable subject matter.
o Say, for example, you think you have a great gimmick for selling more of Company A's products. Leaving aside the likelihood that Company A won't be interested, how do you approach Company A with your idea with any assurance they won't simply use it without paying you a cent?
o About the best you can do is write them a letter telling them you have a promotional (or whatever) idea and, without giving them any details, offer to send it to them. Include in your letter a statement to be signed and returned by a Company A representative promising they won't divulge your idea or make use of it without compensation (to be negotiated between them and you), if they'd like to know the details of your plan. They'll probably say thanks but no thanks or that they can't promise any such things without seeing the idea, but it's the only course open to you.

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