How to Do Patent Research
After all the time and hard work you’ve devoted to developing your business idea, the last headache you need is for someone to steal it and beat you to market with it. There are many circumstances where you’ll want to share confidential information with another party. But the key is ensuring that the party will be bound to respect the confidential information you provide and not use the information to your detriment.
Thankfully, most people you’ll share your business idea with are professionals. If they believe you have a viable idea, they’ll likely want to invest in it or join your team. If that’s the case, it’s in their best interest to keep your idea confidential. However, to be on the safe side, describe your product or service in your business plan, but don’t include a complete set of blueprints — critical data or confidential pricing.
And now’s a good time to shamelessly plug Cobalt – our platform allows you to safely share your idea with those that will help you build it. All work is done peer-to-peer via privacy and work agreements that will show provenance from start to finish for when it comes to protecting your brilliant idea.
Did You Know?
Can you guess what 21st-century signature device’s patent name is “electronic device?”
Apple’s patent for the original iPhone, in its entirety, says only that it is an “ornamental design of an electronic device, as shown and described.” The document then labels eight figures of the “electronic device,” stating only which direction it is shown from, and then cites other relevant patents and documentation. More like a handheld computer than a telephone, the iPhone and subsequent improvements on the “electronic device” have come to influence how humans communicate, navigate, and even the way they think!
Now, let’s begin with a fundamental question…
What Is a Patent, Exactly?
Simply put, a patent is a way to get a short-term monopoly on your business idea. Patents protect new products, designs, and innovations. A patent gives you the right to prevent others from stealing your idea and making, using, or selling it for a limited period — usually twenty years.
Keep in mind, you can only patent the actual designs for the working of a new product, not the idea of the product.
However, to receive a patent and protect your idea, you need to disclose how the innovation works in enough detail so that once the patent has expired, someone with a reasonable understanding of the product and skill can make their own versions.
Why Do Patent Research?
A crucial part of the patent application process is describing how your idea is novel. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) may reject your idea if it is too similar to previously patented ideas.
Before you spend time and resources designing your product, creating a prototype, finding a manufacturer, and making arrangements for distribution, first establish your idea isn’t already out there. If you move forward with an idea that is too close to an idea or a patent-protected product, you can be accused of patent infringement. If your idea is not patentable, it’s best to move on to your next big idea.
So how do you protect your amazing idea and prevent others from stealing it? Start by coming up with search terms or keywords that are specific to your idea, staying away from broad, general terms.
Search the USPTO
Check out the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website and click on the Full Text and Image Database. Search for existing patents, images, and patent applications using the keywords and terms that describe your idea.
The CPC (Cooperative Patent Classification) is a patent classification system developed jointly by the USPTO and the EPO (European Patent Office). Begin by entering the CPC Scheme before your keywords to indicate that you want to use this classification system. Once you click on a result that matches your search, a CPC Classification Definition that helps refine the keywords for your search will appear.
Use Google Patents Search
Google Patents is a free Google search engine that indexes patents and patent applications and indexes information from 17 patent offices worldwide. For non-English patents, translations are available. Many entrepreneurs find Google Patents a fast and easy way to conduct a preliminary patent search.
Visit the PTRC Library
Patent and Trademark Resource Centers (PTRCs) are part of a network of public, state, and academic libraries across the nation designated by the USPTO to help people perform a patent and trademark search. The library staff can answer questions about protecting your idea or product. The staff may also be able to answer your questions about how similar your idea is to existing patents.
Partner With a Patent Expert
No one likes to waste time – especially throughout a process like patent research where inefficiencies can quickly lead to huge expenses. Common mistakes can also lead to a longer patent process than expected.
And now it’s time for another shameless plug: At Cobalt, we help inventors like you bring their big ideas to life. Partnering with a patent expert can save you time and money by conducting a thorough patent search to determine if your idea is “patentable” by the USPTO. If it is, you can work with experts on the platform to gain further insight as they guide you through the complicated world of patents.
Cobalt’s idea development platform is the best way to turn ideas into realities. So, go out there and make your ideas a reality. Get your invite at cobalt.co/get-invite to unlock a 30-day free trial!