There has been an ongoing debate between inventors about what to do first: get a patent or go to market. Some inventors choose to get a patent first, but the patent process can take 12 to 18 months and several thousand dollars–just for a piece of paper that proves that your idea is yours. There is no guarantee that the idea will even make you any money–or if it will, you may have missed the peak of its usefulness in the market. As a result, there are a group of inventors who think it’s a better idea to test your product in the market first, assure that it is marketable, and then get a patent.
- See Also: 7 Things to Do Before Filing a Patent
After developing his product for one year, Amos Winbush III, owner of Cybersynchs L.L.C., a company that provides synchronization, backup, and data recovery for mobile devices, decided to patent his idea before taking it to market. Black Enterprise asked him why he chose this path and he explained that obtaining a patent gave him these three assurances:
Motivation. Getting a patent allows you to plan your business, knowing you own this technology, says Winbush, who won the 2010 Black Enterprise Innovator of the Year Award. Once you realize that you have something innovative, which you own, it motivates you and your employees to work harder to bring the product to the market in a responsible way.
Ownership. A patent will give you protection from other companies that claim to develop your technology while you are developing it. For example, when you’re building a partnership with a global company, it is important to be able to say that you own this intellectual property. If you don’t own it, the company you are talking to–no matter how strict your non-disclosure agreement–can go and develop the technology themselves.
Legal immunity. You can sell your invention on the market for years and all of a sudden get a lawsuit from someone saying you are infringing on their patent. For all of the time that you’ve sold the product thus far, you might owe them money, says Winbush. A patent search is important because it lets you research what is already on the marketplace and decide whether it is smart to enter the marketplace yourself.
Check back with the Inventors Insider next week to read three reasons you might want to take your invention straight to market.
- For more advice from Winbush watch: How to Make a Strong Start in Tech