Inventors Insider: To Patent or Not to Patent, Part 1 - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

Amos Winbush III, owner of Cybersynchs L.L.C., decided to patent his idea before taking it to market.

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.

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.

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.