Ship fast as soon as you have your idea. Build a prototype and ship it. Even if the first version is just good enough, ship it before someone else does. That is the new age mantra of running lean startups. This is good sage advice. The only problem, in the market when your product starts to get noticed, competitors’ product tend to get “inspired” by your product. Then your billion dollar idea gets diluted pretty fast. In other words, the competitors will copy your idea if it is good, unless it is protected by suitable legal barriers.
How do you protect your idea, when you are constrained by time and money? Write down “patent pending” on all your promotional material. You might be wondering that legal rights like patents are good, but take time and are costly. So how are you as a boot-strapped startup to get “patent pending”?
There is a legal instrument that gets you 12 months before you apply for a patent and gives you the right to use “patent pending”.
It is called PROVISIONAL PATENT APPLICATION.
A provisional patent application is a low-cost preliminary step before applying for a regular patent (also called non-provisional patent). A provisional patent application establishes a “priority date” for your invention. In India the date of invention is same as date of filing, therefore the day you file for a provisional patent application, you can tell the world you have a “patent pending” invention.
Some benefits of filing a provisional patent application are:
1) Low cost method gets the right to use “patent pending” notice in all your marketing material.
2) Get a date of invention or an official filing date.
3) One year or 12 months to assess the true potential of your invention without fear of theft or copying.
A provisional patent application is not scrutinized by the patent office and is not made public. When you apply for a regular patent application, it is evaluated for patentability without taking the provisional patent into account.
Ship your idea, but apply for a provisional patent fast.