At Which Stage Should I Apply for a Patent?
Over the years I have noticed that inventors seek patent filing related advice at various stages of the inventing process. At one extreme, I have seen inventors exploring the option of filing a patent application at an ideation stage. On the other hand, I have also come across inventors who explore the patent filing option after bringing the invention to public domain. Given the wide gap between the two extremes, I intend to provide some information through this article to help inventors decide an ideal time to apply for a patent.
Before we dive right into the question of interest, let us try to understand the concept behind the patent system. The patent system is essentially designed to encourage advancement in science and technology. To provide such an encouragement, respective countries provide monopoly right over the patent invention for a limited period of time, to the inventors or the assignees of the patent. In return, the patent office expects the applicant of a patent to disclose information about the invention for which patent protection is sought, to an extent that a person with ordinary skill in the technology, to which the proposed invention relates, can use the provided information to make and use the proposed invention. This disclosure of information to the public would ideally enable others to explore improvements over existing technology, and thereby lead to advancement in science and technology.
The disclosure of information discussed above is one of the requirements, which has to be fulfilled to have a patent granted. Hence, one of the important questions that inventors should ask themselves is whether they have sufficient information about the invention to enable a person skilled in the technology to which the invention relates, to make and use the proposed invention. If sufficient information is available, then the time might be right to apply for a patent. One the other hand, if sufficient information is not available, then the inventor should ideally work towards gathering/generating such information, so that the same can be provided in the patent application.
Generally the issue of not having sufficient information arises when option of patenting is explored at an ideation stage of the invention or at initial stages of research. At this stage, when it is realized that sufficient information is not available, provisional application filing is explored by inventors. There is a general misconception that one need not provide information that enables the invention, in the provisional application. It should be noted that the requirement of providing adequate information hold good for a provisional application, as it does for a complete patent application. I recommend reading our article “What are the different patent filing options?” to get a better understanding of provisional and complete application.
I would not suggest filing a provisional application, as opposed to a complete application, for the lack of adequate information. Instead, I would suggest filing a provisional application if an inventor does not have adequate funds to hire a professional to draft a patent specification or does not have adequate time to have a complete patent specification drafted. Further, in some countries, there is a substantial difference in the government fee that is charged for a provisional and a complete patent application. Hence, one might wish to file a provisional application, and thereafter within 12 months file a complete patent application.
Another important point to be notes is that, in some countries, such as India, the inventors loose the right to file a patent application if the proposed invention is made public before applying for a patent. On the other hand, US provides a time period of 12 months to file a patent application after the proposed invention is made public. Hence, if the inventor wishes to file patent applications in multiple countries, it is advisable to explore the option of filing the patent application before the invention is made public.
I hope the points discussed in this article will help you in deciding the right time to apply for a patent, given the various constraints you might have.
You may also read our articles listed below, to gain more knowledge about patents:
- Can I apply for a patent before creating a prototype?
- Should I apply for a patent in the name of my company or in my name?
- Should an inventor take professional help to draft and file patent applications?
- Should I apply for a patent before publishing my invention?
- Can the details of my invention disclosed in the patent application be maintained as a secret?
- Can publicly disclosed inventions be patented in India?
Please feel free to reach us at Contact us if you have any queries relating to patents.