Here comes the hard truth. Do you need a patent? Answer, maybe. If you do need a patent, when should you do it? Answer, after your prototype has been made. We have no agenda here, spend your money how you want to. It is our intention to merely offer you the facts. Ideas change and improve, what you originally dream up will change in the prototype development stage. So why would you want to patent something early that ends up needing another patent after the prototype stage?
Simply put, a patent is what’s known as a negative right. Meaning the U.S. government endows you with the exclusive right to exclude others from making, using or selling your work. It’s a form of protection that enables you to enter your product or idea into the marketplace with some assurance (though no guarantee) that another entrepreneur won’t try to claim it as his or her own.
So why is it conventional wisdom to patent immediately? Well, patent attorneys have long dictated conventional wisdom, they are the law, right? And gosh no wonder they push patent immediately. It is a cash cow! There are three types of patents: utility (which covers function), design (which covers aesthetics) and plant (which covers, well, plants–of the botanical variety). The average utility patent application costs $5,000 to $10,000 to prepare, but that figure can go much higher depending on the technological complexity of the concept. A 100-page application that requires, say, 50 drawings could easily cost more than $10,000. Yikes!
It is also keen to note why so many of the products you see in storers are simply listed as patent pending. Why, because it made sense for manufacturer to not patent it. How many different toothbrushes are in the oral hygiene aisle? Hundreds? If your product is simply a modification to an existing similar product, you wouldn’t waste the time and money on a patent. However if your product is some new one-of-a-kind turbo nuclear Time Machine with never before seen technologies at its core, well yeah of course.
Here is an even simpler way to think about. You patent a prototype, not an idea. You patent a prototype that has been developed, not an idea. You patent a prototype that has been developed and licensed, not an idea. Idea’s change, and evolve over time. Patenting ideas is really what has caused all the fuss and confusion around patents. But don’t blame the patent attorney, they’re just doing as you asked.