Do not be afraid to take every possible action to ensure that your next great idea is properly protected.
New design innovations for the classic metal-looped climbing tool.
A design patent covers the ornamental aspects of a functional item.
- Do not ignore patent infringement allegations made against your company no matter how frivolous they may appear to be. Always inform a patent attorney of any such allegation.
- Do not assume that because your invention is a "minor" improvement over the prior art technology that it is not valuable and that it cannot be patented. Frequently, minor improvements are both patentable and valuable.
- Do not take an invention into the public before considering whether it should be patented. If an invention is made public before a U.S. patent application is filed, both foreign and U.S. patent protection may be lost.
- Do not discuss an invention with an outside party without first having filed at least a provisional patent application that properly discloses your invention. While having a confidentiality agreement in place with an outside party is beneficial, early filing is now imperative under the "first-inventor-to-file" system installed by the AIA.
- Do not forget, when working with independent contractors and suppliers, to obtain signed agreements with them that any patent rights flowing from their work with you will be owned by your company.
- Do not be afraid to pursue a license under a third party patent if having the right to use their technology would be beneficial to your company.
- Do not knowingly use another's patented invention without having a license to do so. The consequences may be triple damages plus attorney fees.
- Do not assume that someone else's patent applies to what you are doing, thereby requiring a license. Have a patent attorney determine the true scope of the patent in question.
- Do not forget that system approaches to solving problems are frequently patentable. In other words, patentable inventions are not always products.
- Do not forget that you have only one year from the date of first public disclosure or offer for sale of an invention in which to file a U.S. patent application. However, the usefulness of this traditional "grace period" available primarily under U.S. law has been diminished by the implementation of the provisions of the AIA that took effect on March 16, 2013. Furthermore, if interested in foreign patent rights, the U.S. patent application should be filed before public disclosure of the invention.