Customers often look surprised when I tell them that it would be better not to apply for a patent. This can sometimes be the best strategy. When? Here is my Top 3.
1. It is too soon
Filing a patent application as soon as you get a wonderful idea or think up a great concept is likely to be jumping the gun. A patent application requires an invention to be worked out in a fair amount of detail, generally on the basis of drawings and possibly test results. The invention has to be described in such a way that others can also make it.
2. It is better to keep it under wraps
Sometimes it is better not to apply for a patent at all. That is because your patent application will be published on the Internet for everyone to see eighteen months after it was filed. This means that if there is no way that third parties can ever see your invention, for example because it involves a process that takes place within your factory walls, or a device that only you use, you have to ask yourself whether there is any point in applying for a patent. On top of that, a patent expires after twenty years. So at that point you will lose the exclusivity you get with a patent anyway. This is another reason why it is sometimes better to keep your invention under wraps.
3. Making more effective use of your money
No matter how great or patentable your idea might be, you should always ask yourself why you would want to protect it with a patent. There could be good reasons for doing so, such as the protection afforded by a patent. However, if it involves a product that is a bit of a hype, people's interest in it may have waned by the time you get your patent. In that case, you would be better off spending your money on marketing to make as much money from your product as possible in a short period of time.