Conventional wisdom states that patents should be obtained immediately. This is to ensure that an invention, or the germ of an invention, is correctly protected.
However, many intellectual property (IP) lawyers are now suggesting that rushing towards a patent application can actually do more harm than good. Most independent inventors fail to realize that patenting should be one of the last steps taken, as the entire invention process can be lengthy. It has happened (though rarely) that an individual applied for a patent while in the process of inventing, and quit midway. The inventor still had to pay for the fees associated with the application and then attend a small hearing to justify release of the patent.
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IP lawyers recommend inventors to clearly document their ideas, from conception to completion, using the inventor’s notebook or disclosure document from the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO). After filling out the required data, inventors should strongly consider investing in a third-party market-feasibility study of their invention. This eliminates possibly false (though well-intentioned) reviews from family and friends and analyzes factors such as profitability and safety. These studies usually cost a few hundred dollars.
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It is only after this time that the inventor should apply for patents. The inventor would then have the necessary market information on the viability of the product and would know whether the US $25,000 (or more) fee for a patent is actually worth it, in light of projected income from the invention. It must also be noted that under U.S. law, once the invention is unveiled to the public (that is, once it is sold or even displayed at a trade show), there is a 365-day time limit to file a patent.