Before meeting with a patent agent, it’s a good idea to run through checks and balances on your own. These will help you avoid ‘jumping the gun’ on the wrong ideas and will save you money in the long run.
Search For Similar Ideas
The first step we’d recommend would be to do a lot of web searching to find if your idea is out there already; if it’s not, find the closest (most similar) things currently available. This information helps the patent agent to emphasize the differences between your invention and that which is already known to the public.
Along with a Google search, you can also try keyword searches via Google’s patent database and the European worldwide patent database. Both are good search engines to find similar patents based on keywords.
You can also engage a patent search service to give you a search report. Whether you pay someone to do a search before you apply or do this yourself is up to you.
If you do decide to pay for a patent search before filing, keep in mind that even the best searcher cannot find patent applications that are still unpublished. Since patent applications are generally kept confidential by the world’s patent offices for 18 months, this means your paid-for search report will generally not show any recent patent applications. In other words, even with the best search, there is always some risk that the search will miss a relevant reference.
Estimate the Value of Your Invention
Assuming you are doing this for a business idea or investment, it’s really going to come down to money and whether you believe it’s worth it to risk the money needed to apply for a patent. One number you might want to consider is whether you will realistically make more than $40,000 on getting a patent. This is a fairly realistic cost estimate for patent protection in Canada and the US over a 20 year period.
Apply for a patent clarity session
Once you’ve decided to proceed, apply for a patent clarity session.