A Guide To Hardware Patenting

As more and more businesses continue to emerge, one thing that all of us at Firstpart(plastic casting company) have learnt is the universality of ideas. This is also one of the scariest concepts to any entrepreneur. When we meet our new clients, they’re often curious to know if we’ve run any similar projects, prototypes or design iterations for other clients. 

As a renowned manufacturing business in China, we’ll let you in on a little secret – More often than not, projects may be similar, and the deciding factor as to which entrepreneur or business gets it right, is a healthy mix of timeliness and patenting. Today, we shall be discussing the latter, patents. Time and time again, the world has seen tech giants like Apple and Samsung go head to head on who owns what and who did what first. In some instances, startup businesses win big at funding projects, only to see their painstaking ideas, developed, completed and enter into the market a couple of days before their planned release. With Patents, you can safeguard your ideas, innovation and invention from being reproduced, copied, incorporated into another technology and sold without your consent. 

Understanding Patents 
A Patent is government-issued authority or license that allows an inventor to have the sole right of use to a technology, machine, manufactured article, process or composition for a fixed period of time, during which no one else may use, sell or modify that patent without the knowledge of the inventor. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) classified machines, industrial processes, manufactured articles and chemical compositions as patentable inventions. Patents may be classified into design, plant and utility patents. They can be likened to but are different from copyrights and trademarks. 

For hardware, only utility and design patents are applicable. The utility patent is the most important bit for most design engineers. It encompasses protections around the core of your design, the engineering and mechanism of the design, the chip and interactions between component to deliver as intended. The design patent on the other hand affects the ornamental and superficial appearance of the product. 

Is Patenting the right move for you? 
When you enumerate the benefits of having a patent, one can easily see why it should be a must-have. Putting the numerous tales of promising product successes that ended up as failures into perspective however, there is a real argument on whether everyone should patent their ideas. Before concluding on taking out a patent, there are some questions to reflect. If your answer to these questions is yes, you can proceed. If you have doubts, consider patenting carefully.

i.    Would I profit from this patent?
ii.    Patents can cost anywhere from $5k – $20k+, is my investment worth this and more?
iii.    Is there a feasible market for this innovation?
iv.    Patents are relevant and enforceable up to 20 years. Will my patent be relevant for the next 20 years?
v.    Can my business afford my annual maintenance fee? Every patent has a fee payable from the end of its 4th year to the date of filing from the patent
Having a firm grasp of the projected returns on investment and weighing it with your patent cost (including the legal, attorney, processing fees and rates) is imperative to determining if a taking out a patent for you. If you foresee a multi-million revenue arising from filing your patent, then incurring the upfront cost to remain the sole user of your innovation is worth it. 

Applying for Patents 
Applying for a patent process is an arduous process to say the least. First, you will need to work with your national patent office and attorneys. This will definitely cost some money. Next, a patent search will commence to ensure that you’re not filing for patent that already exists and covers the exact thing your innovation relates. If you have a valid patent to file, you will work with the government personnel to file the paperwork. If your patent becomes approved, you will be issued one which you will need to maintain every four years. 

It is crucial that you do not disclose details of how your innovation works to your mentors, investors or business partners without a signed Non-disclosure agreement (NDA). Refrain from telling anyone at the patent office on a casual basis till it becomes officially documented that you have commenced the patent application process. To further prepare against the case of any unlikely litigations, ensure that you keep all your research work, concept drawings and jot notes. 

Once you have your government issued patent, you now have sole rights to modifying, applying, selling or divulging your idea and innovation. If anyone copies or uses your innovation without your consent, they have infringed on your patent. You can now carry out legal action and sue them for millions or billions of dollars depending on the extent of the use and damage. 

Bottom Line 
Patenting require time, money and effort. The process can be long and trying, which is why it is important to ask yourself how appropriate and valuable it is for you to file for one. As more and more product imitations spurn out, having a protection for your intellectual property, copyright or trademark for your invention will make and save your hundreds and thousands of dollars.  

Manufacturing with Firstpart 
At Firstpart, on-time delivery, excellent manufacturing to specifications and cost optimization are part of our many qualitative traits. Working with us can help you achieve product design and manufacturing under the most confidential workspaces. With our non-disclosure practice and commitment to our customer’s business, you can be rest assured of high-quality production in the same facility, mitigating risks of product concept leaks or encroachment of ideas. Feel free to get in touch with us now and receive a free quote on your next project!