We have all come up with a great idea, superb invention, or one-of-a-kind product and thought “…wow, I could make a million bucks if I just started selling now”. DeviceLab, a full-service consumer and medical product company in Orange County, California, has successfully brought to market over dozen of successful products.
Dac Vu, President and Founder of DeviceLab, has this to say about the patent process: “Inventors call me each week to present ideas and ask if they should obtain a patent. I tell them they can surge ahead without one but there are risks; or we can take them through the patent process and protect their idea.”
Should You Obtain a Patent?
Vu states, “Obtaining a patent is like creating a security fence around your invention or idea. You are making it more difficult for others to enter your market and infringe on your territory. In the course of researching a patent, you may find that a product like the one you want to bring to market is already patented. In this case, you might be infringing on someone else’s product. If you still want to proceed with your idea, you might find it necessary to make revisions so your ideas does not infringe.”
If you understand your marketplace and there are no major competitors present, it is possible to successfully launch your product without obtaining a patent. You would need to work quickly, though, as there is a small window of opportunity for being the sole product in any given marketplace. Soon, if your idea is successful and no patent was obtained, you will have many competitors offering bigger, better, and cheaper products just like yours. Additionally, if there is a large existing players in a market and you enter the same market with another type of product but do not obtain a patent, you are at substantial risk. Vu gives an example of how this works: “Let’s say you design a new widget better than an existing widget, but you don’t get a patent. The old widget, although inferior, has distribution and sales/marketing networks in place and can easily copy your design, market it, and outsell your product. In fact, the company who owned the patent to the old widget would most likely wait for the new widget to be successful and then they would improve upon your own unpatented design and bring it to market.”
“I recommend doing a preliminary search to find out if your product is already patented and determine if the market is crowded. The website for doing the search is www.uspto.gov . If there are too many competitors, you can abandon the idea before investing a lot of time and money. On the other hand, if your search is encouraging I would suggest hiring a patent attorney to assist you in the patenting process.”
About DeviceLab (www.devicelab.com) – DeviceLab is a contract medical device design and product development firm. They are a full service company for mechanical engineering, electronics, software, industrial design, prototyping, manufacturing, FDA regulatory consulting and product testing services. Experience includes User Interface (UI) Design, custom and cart development, medical device, industrial design, hospital equipment and lab instrument development. Based in Orange County, CA, they serve Southern California (San Diego, Orange, and Los Angeles Counties) and medical device firms nationwide.