Asking Yourself the Patent Question

Photo credit: Michael Neubert

As active owners of desktop 3d printers, we inevitably arrive at a point where we ask ourselves about pursuing a patent for something we have invented. Inventiveness is one of the intangibles emanating from frequent use of a desktop 3d printer. Inventions may be insignificant at the beginning; still, the potential for significant ones constantly looms in the background. The more we learn about our machines, designing prints, and 3d printing in general, the closer we get to creations we think are wholly unique. We find ourselves asking, “Should I get a patent for this?” To answer this question, we must determine if our invention qualifies for a patent and if it has commercial potential.

Does My Invention Qualify For A Patent?

Photo credit: Michael Neubert

According to Attorneys Richard Stim and Brian Farkas, your invention must be novel.

“You cannot get a patent just based on an idea. You must show how your invention works. In addition, your invention must be new (or “novel” in the parlance of patent lawyers). This means it must be different in some important way from all previous inventions in that field”.

Upcounsel’s webpage advises inventors to refrain from broadcasting their inventions.

“To qualify for a patent, an invention must be distinguished from all previous inventions. You also can’t sell the invention or tell others about it before filling out a patent application”.

It is good practice to keep notes during your invention process as that information is needed for obtaining a patent as well. Attorneys Richard Stim and Brian Farkas give the following advice:

Photo credit: Michael Neubert

“Record every step of the invention process in a notebook. Describe and diagram every aspect and every modification of the invention, including how you initially envisioned the idea for it…. Depending on the invention, you might also want to build and test a prototype. Document all of these efforts. Sign and date each entry and have two reliable witnesses sign as well.”

Attorney Stim and Farkas’ advice is consistent with Upcounsel’s advice when it comes to obtaining signatures from witnesses. Involving witnesses contradicts Upcounsel’s statement about not telling others. Perhaps it is best to have witnesses sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement.

Does My Invention Have Commercial Potential?

In an article published by The London Economist, Jess Young asserts that there are three things to consider when valuing an invention: “Who do you want to sell to?… How much does your invention cost to make?… and Who are your competitors?…” She gives a brief, comprehensive explanation supporting each question in her article. Considering the questions is a smart move.

Image credit: Iwao

An article entitled “Agricultural Innovation And New Ventures: Assessing The Commercial Potential” gives sound advice for evaluating the commercial potential of an invention.

“The assessment of innovation and/or new business ventures is clearly rooted in economics and strategy. Successful innovation must be rare, durable, difficult to imitate, and have few substitutes. If the innovation does not meet these sustainable competitive advantage criteria it is much less likely to create a successful new venture, and likely to be commoditized with little chance of obtaining economic profits.”

Thinking about an invention’s qualifications for patent and commercial potential will give owners of desktop 3d printers valuable insight into answering the patent question.

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