Melissa Ulrich knows a good idea when she sees one. As the chief executive officer of J&M Patent Design, a patent drafting firm, she sees her fair share. Below are her five tips for potential inventors and entrepreneurs looking to patent their idea or invention.
[How Melissa Ulrich started her business]
Get a lawyer
"It is worth investing in a patent attorney to file your patent application for you," said Ulrich. "They are able to do searches that are more extensive than you can do as an individual and the patent laws are complex and change periodically. Do not trust the ads on TV that say you can patent the idea yourself. You will not be doing yourself any favors by going the short route for your patent. All United States patent attorneys are registered through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office."
Don’t cut costs
"The drawings are often the least expensive part of the entire process, but often the most critical part at conveying the idea to the patent examiner," said Ulrich. "This is not an area to tighten your budget on. A patent can be rejected based on drawings alone. Make sure yours meet the specifications and are completed by a patent drafting firm. Most patent drafting firms will only work with you if you have an attorney representing you."
Keep everything in the United States
"Make sure that any work on your patent is happening in the United States so that it is truly protected," said Ulrich. "Different countries have different patent laws and protection offered. If you are filing for a patent in the United States, it is important to have the work done here by a United States attorney and a United States draftsman."
Do some research
"Just because you haven't seen your idea in the marketplace, doesn't mean it hasn't been patented yet," said Ulrich. "A good first search you can do on your own before going to an attorney is through Google Patents. It is not as comprehensive as an attorney can do. But it is a good starting point."
Understand what a patent does
"Truly understand that taking a product to market doesn't equal the right to get the patent nor does having the patent equal taking a product to market," said Ulrich. "These are separate issues. A patent simply gives you the right to stop people from infringing upon your idea. Taking a product to market is a whole other issue once you have the patent."
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