Whether it is a ground-breaking new product or a smart adjustment to your production process, you are probably making more patentable inventions than you think. A well-protected invention can be of great value to your business. Yet many inventors miss this opportunity, because they are not aware of their own inventiveness. The Problem Solution Approach is a simple step-by-step approach that helps you decide whether or not your invention is patentable. If you have any doubts as to whether or not your invention is worth a patent application, you should complete these five steps.
1. Define your invention
Write down clearly what your invention is all about. You should bear in mind that patents are only granted for inventions that solve a technical problem. The starting point is not what can I achieve with it, but how do I achieve it?
For example: you invent a tractor with caterpillar tracks. The caterpillar tracks increase the grip on the land, as a result of which the tractor works better and more efficiently.
2. Determine the prior art
To qualify for a patent an invention has to be both novel and inventive. In order to be able to gauge this, you will need to define what the current technologies are. In the case of tractors: tractors with normal tyres.
3. Identify the differences between your invention and current technologies
With this step we are able to determine what distinguishes your invention from others. The caterpillar tracks are the innovation vis-à-vis the existing tractors with normal tyres.
4. Make clear what problem those differences solve.
Here you emphasise the added value of your product. You can do this by simply writing down what problem your invention solves. In the case of the caterpillar tracks: increasing the grip.
5. Ask yourself: would a person skilled in the art solve this problem in the same way?
To determine whether your invention is really novel and inventive, patent examiners take on the role of a person skilled in the art. The question is whether that person skilled in the art - with their knowledge of the particular area of expertise and existing technologies, based on logical thinking - would also be able to come up with this invention.
Please note that the patent examiners will not only look at existing technologies in your particular area of expertise, but also at those in neighbouring areas of expertise. Caterpillar tracks are very common in tanks and excavators. If it is assumed that the person skilled in the art with knowledge of tractors can easily make the link to the technology used in tanks and excavators, this may be a reason not to grant the patent.
However, this creates a grey area. Suppose you come up with a gel saddle for a bicycle, then a patent examiner could say that this technology is not inventive, because it is also used for riding saddles. However, a person skilled in the art in the field of bicycles might not know anything about riding saddles. A patent attorney can help you tackle this grey area.
If this step-by-step approach shows that your invention is indeed novel and inventive, you can turn it into a patent application together with a patent attorney. If you get protection for your invention, this will give you a stronger competitive edge as well as possible financial benefits.
If you would like to get started with this step-by-step approach, please download our handy questionnaire and contact one of our patent attorneys. Together we can ensure that you get the most out of the know-how available in your organisation.