Whether you are going to attempt to pursue your patent dreams on your own without the help of a patent practitioner, or whether you will hire a patent attorney or agent to represent you, there are a number of things that you absolutely need to know about the invention and patent process that can help you focus your efforts. Great dividends are paid by understanding the obstacles lay in front of you, the pitfalls that have snared unsuspecting inventors in the past, and the many nuances required by case law and statutes. In short, on the road from invention to patent, the better informed you are the better inventor you will become and the more meaningful help you will be able to provide your team.
Making Aware is the Goal
Our goal is to educate you, make you a knowledgeable consumer and to save you from those unscrupulous invention promotion companies who would tell you that you can patent an idea. You cannot patent an idea, but there are ways to move from idea to patent in an appropriate manner. Many people will have great ideas, but what separates those who can turn their ideas into money from those who cannot is a strategy to define the idea enough so that it can become an asset that can ultimately be protected.
If you are having difficulty moving out of the idea phase and into the invention phase take a look at Moving From Idea to Patent and About the Invention Process. These articles will provide some insights and help you formulate a plan for reaching the invention stage, which is where you want to be in order to commercialize and monetize your ideas. I also recommend you take a look at One Simple Idea: Turn Your Dreams into a Licensing Goldmine, which is an excellent book written by Stephen Key of Invent Right.
If not Invention
If what you have is not an invention, but a story idea for example, you should be thinking about protection afforded under the copyright laws. Here the best thing you can do is simply start writing, drafting or otherwise creating your work. A copyright exists immediately upon the original creation and fixation thereof, which is the legal way to say it exists upon creation (i.e. writing it down). You do not need to do anything special to claim a copyright, and you can immediately place the c in a circle and call the work copyrighted. Nevertheless, in order to sue for infringement you will need to have a federally registered copyright. The filing fee is only $45, so applying for a copyright should be done as a matter of course whenever possible.
Back to ideas the myth that an idea can be protected frequently stems from what many call the “poor man’s copyright.” With the poor man’s copyright you simply mail your work to yourself and that is believed to somehow protect the idea. It is absolutely critical for everyone to understand that mailing your idea to yourself will do absolutely nothing to give you any protection. If you do have original expression that is fixed in a tangible medium of expression it is copyrighted immediately, but not federally registered. All that mailing your work to yourself will prove is that you had whatever is in the envelope as of a certain date, and that is only assuming there is a postmark on the envelope and further assuming the envelope is not opened. It provides no rights whatsoever.