10 Pieces of Advice to People with Ideas

This article is based on recent experience with independent inventors who have lots of ideas and little money, written from the perspective of a UK-based patent attorney.

  1. Patents are a great way of getting protection for an idea, and they give you something tangible to sell.  So you need to work out if filing a patent application would be suitable for your idea.
  2.  In general it’s not possible to have lots of ideas, file patent applications for each and then quickly sell the patent applications. Business does not work like that.  For most ideas you’ll have to pursue them yourself, putting money and time into making them work.
  3. Many, many ideas are not patentable.  Just because someone takes your money to file a patent application, does not mean that you will automatically get a patent.  So make sure you know what the chances are of a patent with a good scope being granted.
  4. Patents are expensive, and there are many more fees after the initial fee.  Make sure you are clear about how the patent is going to make you money before you file a patent application.
  5. In the UK and Europe it can be difficult to get patent protection for methods to do with business or software.  That means that many mobile phone apps, for example, are not going to be patentable.  You need to speak to a patent attorney about any specific invention.  The US is more generous with patenting of business methods and software, but that may not be relevant for your business.
  6. Patents are given for ideas which are new and inventive, so you need to know whether your idea is already publically known.  Searching the internet, for example Google patents and Espacenet, is a good way of finding out what is publically known.
  7. Be wary of innovation brokers who will charge you for assistance with selling your idea and a meeting with patent attorneys, when there may be little hope of you being able to sell the idea or get a patent.
  8. Raising money can be very difficult in the UK, and in general it’s very tough to make money from an idea.
  9. Remember that even if something is patentable, that does not mean it’s going to be a commercial success.  For example companies might not be willing to switch from existing technologies to using your idea, even though your idea has advantages.
  10. A lot of information about patents is available online, especially from the Intellectual Property Office.  Reading that will allow you to make better decisions about whether to file a patent application.
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