By Ashok Wahi
June 10, 2010
As an inventor, many people often ask how I determine which ideas are worthy of pursuing and which are better left unexamined. In my experience, the key to developing an idea that sticks is by identifying a problem that is faced by many, but has not been explored, and creating a solution that is unlike any of the others which have been previously tried.
My first invention was created in response to an unanswered, pervasive problem that personally affected me. About 15 years ago, my daughter frequently suffered from allergies after exposure to a neighbor’s cat. I wanted her to be relieved of the sneezing, teary and itchy eyes without having her take drugs that cause drowsiness and other side effects. This inspired me to find a non-drug solution for my daughter that is safe and easy-to-use.
However, you devise your own invention; you should develop a solid understanding of its purpose. Once you have decided to pursue the invention, you should begin the patent process. The first step in the process of getting a patent for your invention is to perform a thorough patent search. Before you become too deeply attached to your idea, this will inform you if your patent is already owned by another inventor. A patent search is basically an intensive study, research and review that will locate other patents filed or approved for inventions, which are comparable to your invention. You can also do your existing patent search from a computer using the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website (www.uspto.gov). This is a good source for reviewing patents pending, and is considered one of the most comprehensive portals for existing patents. However, for new inventors, it may be desirable to hire a patent search firm to conduct the search. This helps first-time inventors avoid any pitfalls or deficiencies in the search.
After you are sure the invention is not a prior art, you should begin the application process. Be prepared to provide a comprehensive description of your patent in the application. The patent application will feature a formal submission which includes an overview statement of your invention, drawings of the product and what exactly you want protected and why. Filing and submitting the application with the USPTO will grant you patent “pending status” on your claim and invention, which means that you can label the product with a Patent Pending mark and safely begin all the necessary work that is related to developing the product.
Exercise patience when waiting for a decision by the USPTO since it may take awhile for the process to be complete. For those who are excited to act on their idea, this does not mean your plan should be put on hold. Be advised that during this time period you can still construct your marketing plan and determine whether you want to license the invention or build a business around the invention. Another option is to find a manufacturer who will license your patent and handle everything related to the invention. Once the application is finally reviewed by USPTO and it is not approved, it will be sent back to the applicant for corrections and/ or revisions. In an effort to avoid this situation, you should provide as much detailed information as possible on the application, to ensure that the reviewer fully understands the purpose and originality of the invention.
The inventor should be mindful that submitting a patent application does not guarantee the patent will ever be granted or how strong the patent may be. However, an unapproved patent does not equate to a failed inventor. Continue to ask yourself questions, channel your creativity and do not be afraid to think simply. Sometimes the best ideas are straightforward ones that others have not bothered to tackle. Make sure that you see your invention through carefully, and seriously consider hiring an Intellectual Property Lawyer or patent search firm to assist you if you are uncomfortable with going through the patent process alone. For an invention that is not already patented, do not focus on whether or not it is too “obvious.” For all you know, the inventor of the paper cup may have felt the same way! If you believe in its applicability and are passionate about its success, you have a good chance of selling the idea.
Ashok Wahi is Chief Inventor and President of Trutek Corp. and is the creator of NasalGuard technology, currently being marketed in the U.S. and Canada as Chloraseptic AllergenBlock.