This article was originally published in “The Connector” magazine in August 2015.
It seems that many people these days have ideas related to services for mobile devices. Often, these ideas provide improvements to our ways of life. At times, the ideas utilize abilities of mobile devices, but go well beyond the devices themselves. These concepts can evolve into very significant business opportunities, and these entrepreneurs need to protect themselves before their ideas are implemented by others.
Patents can be used to protect these ideas. To prepare a patent application, an entrepreneur in the United States needs to file an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, where the application includes a detailed description of the invention. The level of required detail is that necessary for a person “of ordinary skill in the art” to replicate the invention. That is, the concept and its implementation need to be described in a filing. This filing can be in a “Provisional” patent application, which is a simplified application giving applicants a year to file a formal, complete application. When filing a Provisional patent application, the filer can immediately use the term “Patent Pending” and rights are preserved.
For patent protection in the United States, the application must be filed no more than one year from the invention’s initial disclosure to the public. However, this one year grace period is usually not available in other countries. So it is always best for entrepreneurs to file a patent application before public disclosure.
The United States is a subscriber to patent treaties with most countries around the world. Through these treaties, any patent filing in one country is recognized in other countries. Consequently, filing a patent application in the United States before public disclosure preserves rights in other countries.
It is always a good idea for entrepreneurs to consult with a patent attorney to determine how best to capture a concept and preserve rights for it.