After years of study, research, and hard work, you develop a new compound or medicine that can help the world. The hard work’s done, right? Not so fast. Before you celebrate, there are things you need to do to protect your work and your idea. This is not as simple as locking away your bound lab notebook or putting your laboratory notebooks away someplace safe. You need to get a patent to keep your intellectual property (IP) your own.
1. Talk to a professional IP expert. You are a smart person. The process looks easy enough for anyone to handle. Just compile the documents, fill them out giving the information about what your idea is, why it matters, and the reasons you deserve the patent. Easy-peasy, right?
Not really, there is a lot of nuances here. The processes for protecting your IP are more complicated than simply filling out the forms and waiting until you hear back. Even if you do everything to the best of your ability, there is a good chance that you will not get the response you want. Why? The academic verbiage you use so well is not the same language the patent agents respond to. Like every industry, there is jargon. When you have a patent lawyer on your side, they understand the importance of using the right words. They also understand that words have different meanings in different contexts. The way you list what work you have done in your bound lab notebook may not make sense when it comes to IP protection.
If you are looking for trademarks and other IP issues, the difficulties are even greater. It will also cost you more to do this on your own. Say you go through the process and have to start again, you have wasted your time and money.
2. Experts know what rights you actually have. There are a number of issues that can come up before, during, and after you have applied for the appropriate protection. The time may come when you need to take action against an individual or organization who is doing something nefarious with your work.
There are different levels of IP protection; registered designs protect the appearance but not the purpose of a product, copyright protects how ideas are expressed but not the central idea, and trademarks exist to protect brand names and logos. You probably do not need all of these, a good IP attorney can explain what you really need and what you do not.
3. Ask yourself, why do you need IP protection? There are a number of reasons to get this kind of protection for your breakthrough idea. It is worth noting that any money that you spend on this process may be spent better elsewhere.
If you have the means and will to enforce the IP protection you get, it is worth getting. There are significant costs associated with these actions. There are even nefarious people out there who search for patents put in by people who lack the necessary means to protect them. In order to protect yourself, and that idea hiding in your bound lab notebook, giving serious thought to this before you start the process will help a lot in the long run.
4. Getting your IP protection can spur you to action. There are a lot of well-meaning people out there with great ideas sitting in bound lab notebooks. They do nothing to protect their IP. No one gets it but nothing gets done to move it forward so it just sits, wasting away. People who have the drive, energy, and ambition to seek out and get IP protection for their work are much more likely to take their idea to the next levels. If you do not get your IP protection for any other reason, this can move to act and not let your idea waste away in your notebooks.
Americans are creative and hard working. The numbers of patents applied for and approved has been rising steadily since the United States Patent Office first opened. If you think you have an idea that you want to get out into the public sphere, talking to an expert in IP can help a lot.