Invention Harvesting – What Should I Patent?
Episode #7 of the course Patent basics: for inventors and decision-makers by Clint R. Morin
At this point, you have a great basic understanding of patent requirements and patent examination.
In the next few lessons, we will be talking about practical approaches and processes that you can use to obtain a patent. Today, we will talk about deciding on what you should attempt to patent.
Identifying what to patent is sometimes called invention harvesting. Often, the first step in invention harvesting includes identifying potential invention ideas. This can involve brainstorming sessions or reviewing developed or developing technologies within your organization for innovations. Second, for each of these invention ideas, you may want to evaluate your chances of getting a patent and determine whether the effort to pursue a patent is worth the reward in your situation. This lesson focuses on the first step of identifying potential invention ideas, and later lessons will touch more on the second step.
Sometimes It’s Easy: Sometimes invention harvesting is really easy. You may have a good grasp of what you want to patent and protect before you even talk to a patent attorney. Also, technical experts or other inventors in your organization may volunteer or push you to protect specific things they have developed.
Sometimes It’s Hard: At other times, invention harvesting feels difficult. You may have had no thoughts about obtaining patent protection until after a significant amount of development work has already occurred, and it may be difficult to identify what aspects of your already-developed technology is patentable. You may have a hard time getting your technical experts to talk about what is innovative about their work.
Some Questions to Get the Juices Flowing
Most likely, you will have a mix of hard-to-identify and easy-to-identify invention ideas. By thinking about invention harvesting as a separate step of the invention process, you may improve your ability to avoid unknowingly letting invention ideas slip through your fingers. The following are a few questions to consider to see if you might have some inventions waiting to be patented:
• What features of your product are not available in competing products?
• What challenges did you encounter in developing your product? How did you overcome those challenges?
• What are the technical details that make (will make) your product work better than existing solutions?
• What problem were you trying to solve when you made your product?
• What are the inputs to your system and what are the outputs? Is there anything innovative about what you do with those inputs to generate the outputs?
Asking these questions, even when invention harvesting seems easy, can help you to identify inventions that you otherwise may have missed. You may identify additional or specific questions that are particularly helpful for identifying inventions in your industry. In my experience with clients, this process frequently results in the generation of new inventions and can even help refine your product or marketing strategy!
Documenting Invention Ideas
Creating a formal process for documenting invention ideas can make invention harvesting much easier and less time-consuming. This process doesn’t have to be too complicated. In fact, it can be as simple as using a form or questionnaire that can be filled out by anyone in your organization. Completed forms can be stored in a central location and reviewed periodically or at appropriate times.
It is helpful to think of invention harvesting as a separate, distinct step in the patenting process. Implementing simple processes for yourself or within your organization can save you time and keep inventions from slipping through the cracks.
Next time, we will talk about patent searches, which can be useful for determining how likely it is that you can get a patent for one of your invention ideas!
“One Simple Idea, Revised and Expanded Edition: Turn Your Dreams into a Licensing Goldmine While Letting Others Do the Work” by Stephen Key
Notice: This course and its lessons are not, nor are they intended to be, legal or other professional advice. Please seek the advice of a competent attorney or professional for your specific situation.
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