Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Wants to Patent an Idea

Dear Rich: I need detailed information on patenting an idea/product, the region that may or may not be covered, the limits to what cannot be patented etc. Thank you! IMOH. Lately we've been slowed down by the acronyms that are turning up in the Dear Rich emailbag. In this case we're baffled by your use of IMOH. Does this mean you're writing from the Iraqi Ministry of Health? Or does it mean you're just "in my own head," (which wouldn't make sense in this context, would it)? So that just leaves, "I'm outa here." But why would you be want to be out of here? Wouldn't you want to be here to get our answer? Ennyway, we're old, so maybe a younger reader can provide a path to enlightenment.
Right, you had a (broad, almost unanswerable) question. Considering that about six zillion pages have been written about patenting an idea/product, we'll try to steer you to a few sources of information that we find reliable (mostly, because we wrote them). To learn the basics of patenting, check out two sites we've worked on: Nolo's Patents and Business site has a fairly thorough explanation of the requirements and limitations of patent law; and Nolo's Patent Law and Inventions topic page provides some serious overlap. Of course, there's also a lot of great free information at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office site, too. As for the regions that are "covered," the general rule is that your patent extends to the territorial boundaries of the country in which you have registered. Patent registration beyond the U.S. and Canada is complex, expensive and comes with time constraints --  for example, if you file in the U.S., foreign patent applications must be filed within certain times periods. Here's free information about international patents. (By the way, if you're planning on filing a patent without an attorney's help, the bible for DIY inventors is Patent It Yourself.)