Are you developing a revolutionary idea? Do you have an innovation that has the potential of savings hundreds of lives? If you have invented a technology that needs protecting, the path to securing your rights may not be as smooth as it once was.

Are patent laws changing?

Just last month, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit handed down a ruling that denied patent protection to a medical company that invented a noninvasive prenatal DNA screening test. Many legal and medical authorities view the court's decision as a blow to innovation, particularly to emerging technologies in the biotech industry in the U.S.

Members of Congress are pushing a new patent bill aimed at patent trolls - entities that buy patents for the sole purpose of suing others for alleged violations - in an effort to stem the flow of abusive lawsuits. However, opponents of the proposed law assert that it goes too far and actually harms those who have legitimate claims.

Protecting your ideas, innovations and inventions

The correct interpretation and implementation of patent laws and procedures are in constant flux. This is why it is so important to follow these tips to protect your invention or innovation from unauthorized use.

  • File a nonprovisional or provisional patent application: In order to protect your invention, file an application prior to selling or using your invention. Although you have a 12-month window to file a provisional or nonprovisional patent application in the U.S., you may not be protected if there is an issue with your application during the approval process. Additionally, many countries do not have this grace period, requiring you to file an application first.
  • Obtain a formal patent search: Performing a patent search on your own can easily lead you to the wrong conclusion. Nearly 10 million patents have been issued in the U.S. This number does not include those currently in the application process, nor does it include patents obtained overseas. A formal search by a patent lawyer can help you avoid legal disputes and save you valuable time and financial resources.
  • Search the internet and open market: A patent search looks for existing patents and published patent applications, but it does not include existing inventions and innovations that lack patent protection. A thorough internet search is also necessary to help ensure that you are clear to proceed with the patent application process.

Why you should hire a patent attorney

Hiring an experienced patent attorney is the most effective way to protect your rights and your ideas. A lawyer who focuses 100 percent of his or her practice to protecting clients' intellectual property rights will know all the changes that occur in the law and with each step of the patent process. Retaining a legal professional also allows you to spend your time innovating rather than dealing with the legal aspects of the patent process.