A question I get often: “Do I need to patent my new idea?”

Here is my personal thoughts on patents.

Is it worth getting a patent?

Can you get a patent?

First up if you can’t get a one it does not help worrying about it. Is your idea unique? Is it something that you can actually get a patent on? Has it ever been done before? A good idea is to do a search online. Google has a good patent search engine that will give you a good first idea. The South African Patent Office also has an online search engine. You can also look at registering a design and not a patent. If your invention is unique keep reading. 

You have four options that I can recommend from experience:

1) Get a patent and be prepared to fight for it

Large corporations can easily get atents and with money to spend on legal action they can also fight to protect their rights. Their legal power and money helps them to take on any other companies that infringes on their intellectual property. This is an expensive route to go and for small companies or individuals it might not be a reasonable route.

2) Get a patent as a deterrent

You can register patents (or preliminary patents) solely as a deterrent. You might not want to actually fight an infringement, but simply having a patent might be a deterrent to your competition copying your invention.

3) A patent as a marketing tool

A patent could be used in your marketing. It does give some credibility to your product. Also if you are thinking about licensing your product to a large company for manufacturing a patent is essential. In both these cases you again might not want to fight infringements, but the patent is still useful.

4) Don’t get a patent

Lastly it might be a good option not getting a patent. There are a few reasons for this. A patent is a publicly available document. Registering patent might give your opposition a heads up as to what you are busy with and will be launching in future. A lot of international companies with patent attorneys and good designers might be able to design “around” your patent and also launch a new product based on a similar idea without actually infringing on any of your intellectual property.

You will have to describe your invention in detail in a patent document and you therefore are publishing technical details publicly. A different strategy is just to launch the product  to have a lead start on the competition and keep on innovating. Always be one step ahead of the competition. By the time your competition catches up you will be launching your next product.

Conclusion

I am not an attorney, but from experience I have seen all the above work. You might want to speak to a patent attorney before deciding what the right course of action is for you. In the end innovation is the important part in any company. Make sure you keep innovating.

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