Basic Tips for Saving Money on Patents

Notes from Elaine Levenson on the Friday, February 13 Bootstrappers Breakfast with Pete Tormey.

It proved to be an educational discussion about how to protect your ideas.  First some basic definitions for those who missed the event:

  • Patents provide the owner a monopoly on an idea (for the length of the patent).  Regarding Software, generally the process is patentable and the code is usually copyrighted.  (Provisional patents can be filed and held for one year before the actual patent needs to be filed.  These may save you money in the long run they are place holders for the original date of the invention).
  • Copyrights can be filed for anything that’s written: text, software code, icons.  Copyrights can be registered easily and cheaply at
  • Trademarks are filed with the US Patent office and can be done yourself–though the process can be confusing.  It’s possible to use a Nolo Press book or a help from a paralegal to save some time and ultimately the expense of a patent attorney. (If you think you’re going to use a trademark – trademark it and use it)

Other notes of interest include:

  • Do your own preliminary search–don’t spend money if it clearly has been done before
  • Be certain who the inventors are
    • Only actual inventors can be named on the patent.
    • Every inventor–including contractors if they may be material to the invention–should sign a contract that assigns patent and invention rights to the corporation before you hire them.

Write down exactly what the problem you think your invention solve.

  • This invention is fast/better/cheaper because….
  • Include any schematics — even if it’s a line drawing
  • Provide to your patent prosecutor clean drawings in electronics format with each item marked.  Provide complete flowcharts for software
  • Provide to your patent prosecutor an editable file with complete instructions on how to make each part of your invention
  • Seek a patent prosecutor with a technical background (education and work experience) in the same area as your technology (i.e. biotechnology, software, devices, etc.)
  • Remember, patent practitioners give legal advice not business advice.

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