I have developed and researched a new idea that I think has the potential to be commercially successful. How do I protect my idea?
Your first step is to take advice as to whether it may be possible to secure a patent. A patent can provide you with the right to exclude others from making, using, selling or importing the invention. However, the scope, strength and ultimate value of patents can vary considerably so it is important to invest time to make sure you get it right from the start.
The scope and credibility of your patent will determine whether competitors respect it and are deterred or are prepared to licence it on your terms, or if they decide it is worth trying to design around, ignore or revoke your patent.
Time spent considering possible attacks based on what you already know has been done before, and what might turn up later in a search is likely to pay dividends. You should also consider other possible revenue streams for you and work-arounds competitors may try to make. It ultimately costs a lot less to draft your application initially to build resilience into it rather than to fight later. You cannot turn back the clock and add afterthoughts to the patent application when a problem arises.
It is always worth taking an international perspective too. You need to think carefully about where you need the protection and adopt a suitable strategy to optimise your protection footprint most cost effectively.
Being brand aware will assist in commercialisation so the adoption and protection of a unique brand is also essential.
Once you are ready you can either make the product yourself or licence others to make the product and a robust patent will protect your idea for 20 years.
See also: How to protect your staff