I have an idea I want to patent, but I am aware that it is a time-consuming and expensive process. How can I show my idea to a potential buyer while still providing some fundamental protection for my idea until it is formally patented?
A starting point might be a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) stating that the audience being presented to will not share (or ultimately use) the information being presented. Unfortunately, some companies will not sign these agreements. Also, many people will tell you that an NDA sounds good but they are very hard to really enforce. Nonetheless, the formality of an NDA will make the point that you are serious about your ideas.
You might also consider a Provisional Patent Application, which is available from the US Patent Office. The PPA was designed to provide a more affordable first U.S. patent filing, enabling you to quickly secure an initial filing date for your idea. A PPA also legally allows you to use the words "patent pending" — a warning to those who might copy your idea that they risk patent infringement.
Once you have filed a PPA, you have 12 months until the deadline arrives for filing a required full patent application. If you choose to file the full patent prior to the end of this 12 month period, the original PPA filing date can be used as the filing date on the full patent application. If, within that 12 month period, you decide that your idea in its current format is not "patent- worthy", you can simply abandon it, ultimately minimizing your up-front investment. Tip:
Filing for a U.S. patent can be complicated. A good place to start in order to gain some clarity is the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website (www.uspto.gov). In addition, do not be afraid to seek out professional guidance and advice when required (e.g., a patent lawyer). © 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA