Provisional Applications and Licensing
Everybody searches for a cheapo quote to file a provisional patent application. Some robots charge only a few hundred dollars after you fill in a form. The patent office even allows hand labeled photographs and crayon labeled sketches.
The reality is that whatever you file, it stays on your patent file history forever.
So, you may lose your filing date. You may be labeled a sloppy and careless inventor at trial three years later when the product zooms to success. You may triple your litigation costs trying to hold onto that precious filing date.
I write all Provisionals with the same detail and attention as any utility, usually for $2500, plus drawings costs. I do a search with the inventor at patents.google.com. I write a good background defining our “point of novelty”.
I write one really good claim to protect foreign options. I demand quality drawings, nocrayons please. Nobody will be able to challenge our enablement or our filing date.
If you are thinking about licensing your idea to a big firm with good patent lawyers, you are dreaming. A provisional, even a well written one I do, has zilch value. Not until you have issued claims do you have any potential value to a buyer armed with an experienced patent lawyer.
If licensing is your bag, then pay the one to two-thousand-dollar Track One fee, and get a patent in six months. Then you have something to license! Of course, a co-inventor 65 years or older gets the same result for free.
Now don't just take your first allowed claims and walk away. Pay for a continuing application which is called a submarine application.
In this way, a patent lawyer, for example at Johnson& Johnson, can rewrite my claims and keep the filing date alive indefinitely. This allows the buyer of your patent to sharpen and revise my claims to better sue the knock off artist. In real life the knock off artist launches his new product thinking he just avoided and designed around my claims. But the buyer of your patent can revise, edit and get new claims, picking through every word in the provisional and utility specifications I wrote years earlier. The result is a slam dunk patent infringement lawsuit using claims I did not write. The new claims are crafted precisely around the new knock off product.
So, another reason to choose a patent lawyer with perhaps ten or more years' experience is to ensure he/she exhausts every detail in reducing your idea into very detailed drawings and descriptions. Who knows but eight years down the road, some large law firm may remodel my original claims and get you a healthy royalty check? This check could be based in part on squashing the knock off artist and forcing a nice royalty out of him.
Be sure to listen to my audio “Estimating the value” on this website. I gave it to thousands of inventors as a guest speaker for the U.S. Department of Energy. The bottom line is that licensing is a way harder road to travel. Build your own bear and protect it has been a much easier road to travel for my small business inventors.
Find A NICHE AND FILL IT. Examples include the Sky Coaster Amusement Ride, house keys shaped like guitars, key fobs looking like dog bones, grow lights, trailer hitches, searchlights, ceiling lamps, earphones, moving furniture straps, juvenile tableware, roof tiles, pot pipes, and fishing lures. All good examples of patented small ideas that made good money for the inventor.
One final word of advice. So many startups begin their pricing strategies in total ignorance of basic marketing principles. You need at least five times markup from your cost (for a house key) to the retail price. The big retailers like Home Depot will at least add 40% to your cost to them. So, your house key costing $1.00 should sell at Home Depot for $5.00. Even if you direct sell through Amazon, they will add a considerable markup. Any idiot can lower their price. But once you set the retail value of your house key at $4.00. You will have great difficulty raising your price to $5.00. So, start at maybe eight times cost, check the market. Then adjust accordingly. Every product has an alternative. An alternative to a motorcycle is a scooter.
Look at the prices of all your alternatives before establishing your first impression in the marketplace.
Don't forget -friends, relatives, fools and crowdfunding can help kick start that product launch. Licensing often happens after you get started selling your own product!