Now that I have made you wait a little while, here is the final installment of my series on taking your invention from idea to patent to home-based business. If you are wondering why the Patent and Trademark Office has not processed your patent application during the time that it took me to write this series, it is because it typically takes five to eight years for a patent application to make it through the application process. “Excuse me?”, you say. “Five to eight years? I don’t have time for that”. While it is frustrating that the patent process takes such a long time, it would be even more frustrating if someone else got a patent on “your” great idea. After all, you applied for a patent because you want to be protected from copycats making money off of your innovative idea. What, then, do you do while you wait for the patent application to be processed?
There are a couple of things that you can do. One thing that you could do is to mark your item “Patent Pending” and begin production right away. This is a risky thing to do, but if you take a look around any store and see how many items are marked “Patent Pending”, you will see just how common it is. If you are eventually issued a patent, your protection from copycats begins when the patent is issued and not a minute before then. Marking your item “Patent Pending” simply puts would-be copycats on notice that your invention may be protected by a patent at some time in the future. It’s a kind of intimidation tactic, if you will, and it works because many would-be copycats do not want to invest time and money into copying something and manufacturing it only to be stopped from doing so (or getting into trouble for doing so) at some point in the future which could theoretically be tomorrow because they have no idea how long it has been since you filed your patent application. Marking your invention “Patent Pending” and producing it may be a good option, but you should think it through carefully. Under no circumstance should you ever mark an item “Patent Pending” if you have not filed a patent application – it is a criminal offense.
If you would prefer to wait out the patent process, you have some time on your hands. If you have not already done so, why not use some of that time to work out the logistics of what you would like to see happen with your invention if a patent is issued. Write a business plan, and begin to think about who you should approach with it. Will you approach a competitor who can license your invention and produce it while you earn money for having had the idea, or will you approach investors with the intent of getting some start-up capital to manufacture and sell it on your own? Another thing you can do is to assess how marketable your product really is. This might be difficult because it involves gathering market data and being blatantly honest with yourself about the actual money making potential of your “brain child”. If you discover during such a reality check that your great idea is not going to sell, move on to inventing the next great thing or pursue a different avenue. Many people have gone “back to the drawing board” and have had success with subsequent inventions. Good luck.