Ideas are incredibly valuable. Billion dollar businesses are often built on a single idea. Lots of million dollar businesses are too. So if you have a good idea, you should do one of three things with it: patent it, keep it secret, and publish it.
The suggestion to patent an idea, or keep the idea a secret, is probably not a surprise. But why would anyone publish a valuable idea? To understand why publishing is advantageous, one must first understand the reasons to patent or keep secret an idea.
Patenting an invention gives the patent holder the right to prevent anyone else from using that invention. The patent makes the idea more valuable because the patent holder has a legal monopoly. Competition can be restrained to greatly increase profits. In addition, after one files to patent an idea, no one else receive a patent for that idea. Patents can also be used to ward off patent infringement lawsuits.
Unfortunately, patents are also expensive. Patenting all good ideas can be prohibitively expensive, even for large corporations. Still, one’s best ideas should be protected with a patent.
The biggest drawback to a patent, besides cost, is that one must disclose the idea to get the patent. For many inventions this does not matter. For example, for the price of the product, everyone can see the inventive improvements to a new television set or a more efficient carburetor. However, if the invention is something that is hard to see, like a less expensive way to produce high-grade steel or route cellular telephone calls, then making the invention public with a patent might not be a good idea. Instead, it may be more profitable to keep the idea a secret, protecting the idea without a patent.
Using trade secret laws, one can stop employees and others that learn the secret from you from profiting from it. Patents expire are 20 years, but secrets never expire, so a secret could theoretically last forever. Unfortunately, trade secret laws will not protect your secret idea if someone else discovers it one her own. Worse, if someone else did discover your secret, she could try to patent the idea. idea for invention
Publishing an idea shares advantages and disadvantages with both patenting and secrecy. Like keeping an idea secret, publishing is essentially free. Like a patent, publishing also protects by preventing others from patenting the idea. As soon as an idea is published, no one else in the world can patent it.
However, in the United States, the inventor still has one year after publication to file a patent application. So you could publish your idea, preventing every else from patenting it, and then wait a year before filing for a patent. This essentially gives the inventor free protection for a year. idea for invention
If an inventor doesn’t file for a patent on the idea within a year of its publication, the idea becomes part of the public domain. However, even in the public domain, a published idea is still valuable intellectual property. The published idea is prior art that can be used to invalidate patents that are asserted against the inventor. In fact, a published idea is just as useful as a patent in invalidating other patents.
If you don’t patent or keep secret an idea, you should publish it. There are seven billion people in the world, and they generate two million patent applications every year, plus countless other publications. Someone will have your idea soon. Ideas that you don’t patent should be published to prevent others patenting that same idea and perhaps latter suing you.