The ideas you have are already worth solid gold in your mind. With an eye on innovation, you have conducted thorough research to ensure that your vision will succeed in the market. With a well-crafted design model conceived, the logical next step is to protect your intellectual property by obtaining a patent. But is a design and specifications enough to get a patent, or do you need a prototype for a patent application?
The U.S. Patent Office (USPO) states that it does not require applicants to submit a prototype. However, producing a prototype, especially a working prototype, has many advantages. In addition to demonstrating a more authentic representation of your idea, a patent will provide some regulatory and business benefits. These benefits will give you a higher level of legal protections from competitors while expanding the field of potential investors,
Building a Prototype Increases the Chances of Patent Approval
For the sake of time and meeting project deliverables, it will be tempting to skip the project’s prototyping phase and secure a patent faster. This error is common and may elongate the time it takes for your patent to be processed. Without a prototype your design may fail to separate itself from similar patented ideas, forcing you either back to square one or, worse, to watch your plans succeed with a party that better represented the same idea.
The patent process requires you to submit as much detail as possible about the product in question. Patent law requires submitters to ensure that their application is detailed enough so that an industry expert could recreate your product using the details in your patent application. An excellent way to accomplish this with meticulous detail is to submit a working prototype along with any design details and specifications that go into the build.
Submitting a prototype with your patent application will provide proof of concept for your idea and give a patent examiner a concrete way to validate the specifications and functionalities you have provided. A prototype will reduce the financial or competitive risks associated with re-submitting a patent application or providing additional clarifications.
Are There Reasons for Patenting or Not Patenting?
A prototype helps determine whether or not to patent your idea. Using a prototype for patent purposes gives you the ability to perform a self-examination to assess your design’s viability. After evaluating if a patent is deemed a requirement, you will shorten your application process by having an interactive object to submit along with your application.
Some scenarios would qualify the patent process as an inefficient endeavor. For example, if there are already many similar products on the market, pursuing a patent may not be cost-effective. Also, patent filings are a very time-consuming process and, given the current three-year backlog at the U.S. Patent Office, may mean that your idea could be obsolete before it appears before an examiner.
Pursuing a patent for a unique design concept and is intended for distribution to even just a small audience is highly recommended. Protecting your intellectual property is only one piece of the puzzle. Starting the patent process will also protect your design and manufacturing partnerships from business and legal challenges. This insurance will grant your design team and investors peace of mind as your project steps closer to production-ready.
When is The Best Time to Pursue A Patent?
The adage, “timing is everything,” is especially true for patent filings. File too soon, and your application will likely be incomplete. File too late, and you run the risk that another party jumps in front of you with a very similar idea that leads to your application being denied. The balance lies somewhere in between, and there is no concrete answer that fits all cases. To find the right timing, you’ll need to dive a little deeper into your industry to choose the best patent timing.
The best time to pursue a patent should start with the drawing up of a conceptual design. This timing provides a protective measure for your initial idea and gives you space to invest in honing your product’s capabilities. Once your product has further matured in the development process, you can move to file a second application using the new design details in your product. It would be in this second filing that you would submit your prototype of choice.
This form of patent filing, while offering the most protection, will be more expensive. In addition to paying more filing fees, legal fees may contribute to costs. The next best option is to submit a patent application when you have a 3D, CAD-based prototype ready to go. This added definition will give your application more traction with an examiner and ensure that your design was appropriately vetted.
So Do You Need a Prototype for a Patent?
Although submitting a prototype with a patent application is not a requirement, it can improve approval chances. Your prototype can fully demonstrate your product’s capabilities when submitted as a part of a patent application. The expert advice of a manufacturing services provider will give you a prototype that fully expresses your idea and will be ready for the eyes of patent examiners and investors alike.
PRL is a full-service product development company that specializes in all aspects of production, from design to product fabrication and prototyping. Our experts are here to guide you through the full product development process, including the ideation, design, creation, and management of your product idea.