4 Common (And Harmful) Misunderstandings About Patents

11 May 2015
 Categories: , Blog


Do you have the perfect new invention or idea that you want to protect? It's time to get a patent attorney. Patent law can seem mystical to people that aren't familiar with it, and there are many myths and misunderstandings about the patent protection process:

1. An Obvious Product Can't Be Patented

If this were true, there would be no such thing as a soda can. In fact, some of the best inventions and designs have been patented. Any product can be patented if it is specific enough, even if it is obvious. It needs to have a clear design and purpose and not have been patented before -- that's all. Only a patent attorney can tell you whether your product qualifies, but just because the product is obvious or common sense doesn't mean that it has been.

2. You Can Mail Yourself a Copy of Your Plans to Patent It

This is a misunderstanding due to copyright law -- and it's also not really true for copyright law, either. The idea is that by mailing yourself a copy of your plans, you establish that you had the idea first. But unlike copyright, patent law does not operate on a first conceived basis. You can manufacture a product for ten years and still not get the patent for the product if someone else gets the patent before you. Even worse, that could mean you could no longer manufacture!

3. Patents Are Worthless If The Product Falls Through

Even if you decide not to manufacture the product your patent covers, you can sell the patent outright or license it to other companies. In fact, many businesses only operate on licensing models rather than through manufacturing. So even if you really don't know how to manufacture your product, you still could license the idea.

4. There's Only One Type of Patent

There are actually three types of major patents: utility, design and plant. Of these, only utility and design really cover products -- plants actually cover new types of plants. Utility patents are what most people think if a patent; a patent regarding the function of a new machine or other product. Design patents cover the appearance of an item, separate from its utility. 

A patent attorney can take a look at your property and tell whether or not you need a patent in the first place. Contrary to popular belief, a product that cannot be patented can still be manufactured -- your attorney can tell you more. Try contacting a company like Hamilton IP Law PC with any questions or concerns you have.