It’s an Edison-like sort of notion. To have a credible invention, one must have a patent. It’s validation. It’s a declaration. And for many inventors, it’s a source of pride.
But it takes little examination to realize that all of these sentiments are just that – emotions! Owning a patent may protect you. But what it absolutely does not guarantee is that you’ll profit financially from your idea.
It’s not difficult to patent an idea. Many less-than-spectacular ideas are patented – ideas that don’t actually improve upon prior art or whose method of manufacturing is actually more expensive than existing technology. If an invention possesses either of these two qualities, the idea will never win a licensing agreement nor make it to the marketplace. And so at some point, you have to ask yourself frankly: why am I inventing? What do I hope to achieve with this invention? And if you desire more than a framed piece of paper on the wall, you must first consider all of your options.
The patenting process was created to help protect your intellectual property. But in truth, that protection only exists if you’re willing and able to act on it. I’ve been there. Years ago, a company violated my patent and used one of my inventions. And in response, I sued them. We eventually settled, but not after years and years of costly and depressing litigation. In the best-case scenario, a patent acts as a deterrent, warning away other individuals and companies from infringing on your rights. But in actuality, this isn’t always true. Do you have the means to pursue a company that rips you off?
Getting a patent isn’t the wrong option – it’s just not the only one. Patents take two or three years to receive and are expensive. Does your invention fit the marketplace as it exists today? Do you need to act now? Can you afford to file for a patent? In truth, the overwhelmingly majority of inventions patented never make a dime. Who profits? The system itself, like the thousands of patent agents, attorneys, and USPTO attorneys.
I’ve licensed inventions without patents. I’ve licensed inventions with patents. Get informed and make the best decision for your idea – and the circumstances that surround it.
Stephen Key is a successful award-winning inventor who has licensed
over 20 products in the past 25 years. Along with business partner
Andrew Krauss, Stephen runs inventRight, a company dedicated to educating inventors about selling their ideas and the skills needed to succeed. You can ask questions and get advice on the inventRight forum, check out the resource center, and listen to the weekly radio show on inventing.