Here’s 7 Things to know about Patent Rights – #4 is what most people DON’T know, #1 is the most important to know, and #7 reflects a recent change to our patent laws.
1. First Come, First Served: The US patent system will only award a Patent on an idea or invention to the first inventor who files a patent application. If you aren’t the first to file, you risk losing your patent rights.
2. The Clock is Ticking: If you don’t file a U.S. Patent Application within 12 months of public disclosure (such as sharing your idea with others) or within 12 months of offering your invention for sale, you lose your patent rights. Even still, the longer you wait, the greater the risk of someone else filing a patent application for the idea you came up with first.
Important Note: Although the US gives you a 12 month period to file a patent application after your first public disclosure/offering for sale, most other countries in the world do not. This means, in those countries, you will have lost your patent rights if you’ve made a public disclosure before first filing a patent in at least one country.
3. Filing a Provisional Patent Is a Great Place To Start: It’s affordable and it’s an essential take away from these 7 facts. A provisional application secures your priority date (your spot in line) to the patent rights while you develop your idea, market it, and raise funding. This helps to ensure that no one will beat you the patent office.
4. Put the Public on Notice: Simply put, once you have a patent or patent pending status, tell everyone about it. The traditional way to do this was to write your patent number on your product. However, now this can be done virtually (See Fact 5). Notice is crucial, because if you don’t provide notice of your patent (or pending) rights, then you aren’t entitled to monetary compensation from competitors who have been infringing your patent rights under your radar.
5. Virtual Patent Marking Makes Things Easy: Recent updates to our patent laws allow for a “Virtual Patent Marking”. This simply means that you can now put the public ‘on notice’ of your patent rights over the internet. If done correctly, you satisfy your notice requirement, and you no longer have the burden of constantly monitoring and notifying your competitors one-by-one.
TIP: The Patent Seal™ is a Virtual Patent Marking certificate issued by licensed patent attorneys that you can use to meet the Legal Notice Requirements under 35 U.S.C. § 287. Just place the Patent Seal™ Virtual Patent Mark on your website. When your website visitors click on your Patent Seal™, they will be directed to a certificate detailing your intellectual property rights.
6. The more you wait, the more you lose: It could take months, if not years, to discover and locate people who infringed on your patent. By the time you find these infringers and put them on notice of your patent rights, they may have made substantial profits from your idea. Moreover, you won’t be entitled to any of those profits unless you can prove that the infringers had notice of your patent rights. The Virtual Patent Mark is a legally recognized form of ‘public notice’ that will entitle you to a portion of the infringers’ revenue, even if you didn’t provide them with notice directly.
If you are interested in more detail related to your situation it is best to speak with a patent attorney.