Innovative ideas can take many forms: they can be complex and revolutionary, or indeed very simple and based on existing technologies. These apparently simple ideas are not always recognized as an invention, while they can be very valuable. As a result you could miss out on important (patent) protection.
How do you ensure that both major and small inventions are recognized and protected at an early stage?
Think in terms of problems
You particularly need to make sure that you are aware of new developments. For this reason you should discuss any ongoing R&D projects on a regular basis and raise the following questions.
- What kind of problems have we encountered?
- How have we resolved these?
- How has the final product or process changed as a result?
- Are there any alternatives?
- Has anything been published on this yet by others or ourselves?
It is easy to identify a major invention based on the answers to these questions. A simple invention is often overlooked, however, because the solution found is often easy to apply to the existing product or process and does not involve any major changes. You should therefore ask yourself an extra question as part of an evaluation:
6. Does the solution only require a minor change to the product or process?
If the answer is yes, this should make you think. Perhaps this is an important but simple invention.
Keep asking questions!
It is important to keep asking questions. Something that might seem obvious at first glance can still be patentable. That is because the requirements for inventive step are lower than many inventors think. After all it is about what is inventive for the average person skilled in the art and not what is inventive for an expert in a particular field.
Minor change, major consequences
A client of mine, for instance, discovered that a particular kind of medication is absorbed much better when mixed with oil instead of water. This is a minor change, which has since resulted in a European patent!
Stronger by asking the right questions
By regularly discussing R&D projects and innovative ideas you ensure that you are more likely to identify inventions. A patent attorney can help you with this. This will ultimately contribute to a valuable arsenal of Intellectual Property rights for your company. So a stronger company can start with just a few simple questions.