Getting a Patent – Market Competition

Dear M&M:

My husband and I think we have created the next great invention.  How do we go about getting a patent?

– Melissa

Dear Melissa:

To earn a patent, you must convince the United States Patent and Trademark Office that your idea is novel, as well as useful. If a search of the database containing all existing patents reveals that your idea is indeed unique, you must then file the proper application and wait for the Patent Office’s official response or request for further information.

Step 1: Search the United States Patent and Trademark Office database to ensure that your idea, or one that is substantially similar to it, has not been previously patented. Patents are only issued to ideas that are unique and not obvious. An idea that has not been patented in the precise form you suggest but is a natural extension of an existing patent is not patentable. You must also demonstrate that the idea accomplishes something useful before you can be granted a patent.

Step 2: Review definitions for design, plant and utility patents and select the proper application type. Design patents are issued for ornamental characteristics such as a unique shape, while plant patents are issued for new types of botanical plants. The most common patent type is utility patent and covers useful processes, machines, articles of manufacture and composition of matter. As a general rule, if your patent application is not for a plant and is not solely visual/ornamental in nature, you should file a utility patent application.

Step 3: Review filing options on the USPTO website and determine global scope, review priority, provisional status and filer for your patent. When you fill out the patent application form, specify whether you seek protection in the United States or globally. In addition, you can file for a provisional or non-provisional patent if you seek a utility patent and can also pay an additional fee for an expedited review. You can also elect to file yourself or use a patent attorney. Review the USPTO website (uspto.gov) for the pros and cons of each application option.

Step 4: Fill out the online application form. The fee schedule is outlined on the USPTO website. You may pay by check, money order, credit card, electronic funds transfer, or an authorization to charge a deposit account if a deposit account has been established with the USPTO. Once you file an application and submit payment, the USPTO will contact you with further questions or with details of your issued patent.

-M&M

 

Dear M & M:

What are some areas I should look into to enable me to understand or to know better what competition I am facing in my markets?

– June

Dear June: 

Understanding what you are up against is one of the first things you will need to know to price and promote. Don’t just compare the obvious things like pricing and promotion, but compare other things like flexibility, prestige, innovation, reliability, credit policies, and hours of operation, service before, during and after the sale. If you are not aware of what your competitors are offering how you can offer that differentiates you from the competition? Remember your value proposition, what are you doing that is different? Why will consumers buy from you and not the other business down the street? Once you know what your competitors are doing and how they do “it”, “it” will be obvious where your business needs to make improvements. One of the first things one should do is to identify who your closest competitors are.  Geographically it is important to understand ones closest competitor to your front door, but also look at who has the lion’s share of your market selling more products to your targeted market in your selling area and who is the most similar to your operations or operates a business most like your own. Are these businesses growing, shrinking or just holding their own?  I like to take a look at a similar business outside your selling area just to see if they are doing anything different that you can duplicate or simulate. How do these other businesses operate their businesses? What are their strengths and weaknesses? How do their products and services differentiate from yours? In what ways are they the same? What are their sales strategies? Who are their target markets? How do their prices compare to yours? Are they offering things differently? Do they sell products you don’t sell? Return policies, wages paid to employees, location, parking, employee uniforms, web sites, holiday store hours, and other promotional efforts should all be looked at. Remember, “Competition is not only the basis of protection to the consumer, but is the incentive to progress.” – Herbert Hoover

 -M&M

 

To ask your questions: Call the Small Business Development Center(SBDC) at Cochise College (520)-515-5478 or email schmittm@cochise.edu or contact the Sierra Vista Economic Development Foundation(EDF) at 520-458-6948 or email  hollism@svedf.org

 

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