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When it comes to protecting intellectual property, innovators have four different options: trade secrets, copyrights, trademarks, or patents. Copyrights protect original works of authorship, while trademarks protects specific symbols, words, phrases, or designs. Trade secrets safeguard business information, particularly in terms of manufacturing. And, of course, patents are made to protect discoveries and inventions.

If you've created an incredible invention, you may decide to go through the patent process in order to preserve your design and ensure no one can replicate it. But obtaining patent protection isn't always straightforward. You'll need to follow the tips below if you want a good chance of securing a patent.

Make No Assumptions
When you've spent a long time working on an invention, everything about it probably seems obvious to you. But when you start your patent application, you must remember that nothing will seem obvious to a reader. Don't make assumptions about what they may or may not know about your invention, the applications for it, or even your industry. You cannot rely on the reader to fill in any missing information or draw conclusions about what you've created. When working on your application, you should think of your audience as intelligent but with no particular expertise. This will keep you from "talking down" to the reader yet will ensure they gain a complete understanding.

Describe the What, How, and Why
Some inventors will make the mistake of detailing how their creations will be used and why they're necessary, but forget to focus on the actual structure of the item itself. Remember that design purpose is helpful, but it's not enough on its own. Providing detailed drawings isn't sufficient, either. You'll need to describe the product itself in detail (even if it feels quite apparent to you) in addition to how it is used and why it's important.

Start Broad, Then Get Specific
When filing for a patent, you may be inclined to state everything in a general way so that your patent could apply in many situations and applications. Most likely, this won't work in your favor. You might also think it's better to be extremely precise and detail very specific examples in which your invention might be used. While specifics are important, you need to be careful of boxing yourself in. Getting too specific early on could lead to oversights and limitations of your patent. The solution for both of these situations is to start out with a general description -- a broader scope of your invention itself -- and follow it up with more specific details about how it can and will be used. You really do need both to ensure your application will be granted and that the patent will provide the protection you actually need.

Take Everything Literally
When applying for patents, inventors need to remember that their words matter. Choosing the wrong word or term can have significant consequences. A very famous U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit decision found that a Chef America patent contained the phrase, "heat the dough to 450 degrees." This phrase implies that the dough's internal temperature needed to reach 450 degrees, instead of what was actually intended -- that the oven reach 450 degrees. Keep in mind that everything you write in your patent will be taken literally. This is not the time to use popular turns of phrases or make silly diction mistakes. When writing and reading over your patent application, it may help to picture your audience as alien visitors to Earth. Make sure nothing you say can be misinterpreted. Your patent lawyer can ensure your choices in wording can't be taken the wrong way.

Don't Wait Too Long
Patent applications are time-sensitive. Once you publicly reveal your invention, you have only a year to file the application. Public disclosure refers to discussing your invention at a trade show, launching advertising, or putting it up on a website. You should keep your invention under wraps until you're ready to file. Otherwise, you might be taking a big risk.

If you need help filing for patents to ensure your inventions are protected, we're here to help. Contact us today for more information.

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