When to file a patent

The United States recently switched from the so-called “first to invent” system to the so-called “first to file” system. Under the old law, an inventor had an opportunity to argue he or she actually invented first even if he or she applied for a patent later than his or her competitor. If successful, the first inventor was entitled to pursue the patent and the second inventor was not, even though the second inventor filed for protection first. The new law eliminates this scenario. For patents filed after March 15, 2013, whoever filed for the invention first has priority over later filers, regardless of who actually came up with the invention first. Therefore, it’s important to file early.

You need more than just an abstract idea to file a patent. Your patent application needs to contain enough details to show the people in your field what the invention is and how it works. Often, if you have a substantially developed idea and can articulate a concrete implementation, you are patent ready. If you already have a working prototype, you are more than patent ready.