So, you’ve had an idea. It’s a widget, a gadget… something with moving parts made up of technical bits and bobs. You’ve scoured Google and the high street to see if anyone has beaten you to it, but you’ve failed to find anything on the market that is quite the same. You know you need to protect it, to have something to license, something to attract investment, or even to deter copycats. You know that you need a patent.
So why should you bother to do a patent search, before you get shifting with making it look the business, and before you instruct your patent attorney to prepare and file a patent application?
Here’s our top 3 reasons why an patent search can be invaluable for any idea at this early stage in the development process.
1. The requirements to achieve patent protection for your idea in the UK and Europe are that is must be novel, and therefore it cannot exist anywhere in the world prior to the date that you file your patent application. There’s a wealth of ideas locked away in patent literature. You’ve bothered to search products through Google and in high street stores, so why not invest some time in searching patents too. We’ve heard the stories where people have skipped over this stage, only to discover downstream that their idea has been done before. Whilst this doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the road for an idea, wouldn’t you rather find out before you’ve raided the piggy bank and spent considerable time and money on the project?
2. A patent search can help to support the design development process. You need to grasp whether your idea really is new, and steer around any pertinent prior art that you uncover when patent searching. The patent specifications that you find might help to pad out the development process, and trigger new ideas for optional extras or modifications. Patent literature can be an invaluable resource during the product development process.
3. A patent search at an early stage can help save you money. The going rates for preparing and filing a patent application in the UK through a patent attorney tend to be in the region of £2k to £3k. Add this to the fact that to reach this stage you’ll have no doubt spent a fair bit of money refining the design and being sure your widget will work. Imagine if you waited for the UK IPO to do their searches against your patent application, only to discover at this late stage that someone had thought of your idea before. Worse still, that it is disclosed in a patent that is granted and in force in all of your key countries, and to proceed with the idea you risk infringing another’s rights. It’s certainly a long way back to the drawing board!
So to save yourself time and money, provide support for the product development stage, and provide reassurance that chances are you can achieve worthwhile patent protection for your idea, you would be mad not to delve into the depths of patent literature prior to making any considerable investment.