I’m not an expert. I’m just a guy who likes to think about stuff.
Why do you want a patent?
It’s a question I don’t think enough inventors think about. Getting a patent isn’t easy. It takes time and money. You’ll wait on average three years to get a patent. It’ll cost thousands of dollars. Why do you want a patent?
If your answer is, “I want a patent to make or sell my invention”, think again. A patent gives you the right to keep others from making or selling your invention. It DOES NOT give you the right to make or sell your invention. What’s the difference? It’s possible for your patent to infringe on someone else’s patent. To infringe on someone else’s patent, you must infringe on one claim. Let’s say that you invent a laptop that includes a copier and scanner. Someone else patents a laptop that includes a copier, scanner, printer, and fax. The other person has four broad claims in its patent, like the following:
- Claim 1: A laptop comprising a scanner.
- Claim 2: A laptop comprising a printer.
- Claim 3: A laptop comprising a copier.
- Claim 4: A laptop comprising a fax.
If the other person patented the invention before you filed for a patent, you’d infringe on claims 1 and 3. So if you get a patent for your invention, the other person may assert that you’re infringing on his invention, precluding you from making or selling your invention. A caveat in this example is that a patent is only enforceable in the country in which it is granted. If the other inventor has a patent in Japan, and you’re making or selling your invention in the US, the Japanese patent will have no bearing on you making or selling your invention in the US. You just won’t be able to make or sell your invention in Japan.
Next week, I’ll address another answer for the question, “why do you want a patent?” Stay tuned!