Q: I’ve come up with what I think is an exciting new product. Without going into too much detail, it has the potential to save many households quite a lot on their energy bills, so I’d expect there to be a market for it.
At the moment, I don’t have the means to commercialise it – I’d need to raise finance or investment, or bring a partner in to get the device to market. Before I start telling people about it, I want to make sure that somebody can’t just steal the idea. How should I go about getting a patent?
A: While anyone can make an application for a patent, this is a pretty complex area of law, and you may well benefit from specialist advice if you can afford it. You can access a list of agents here. To make an application, you can fill out the Patent Application Number 1 form and send it to the Patent Office at Government Buildings, Hebron Road, Kilkenny.
Your application should consist of four key items. Firstly, you must request for the grant of a patent (completing the application Form No.1 will meet this requirement). The application should have a detailed specification, which includes drawings and a detailed explanation of the invention. That explanation should include all relevant information – in other words, by reading the specification, someone with reasonable skills in the same area should be able to fully replicate it without needing further details. A shorter abstracts, summarising the invention more concisely, is also required, along with the appropriate application fee.
Crucially, once you file an application, you can’t change the specification you’ve provided in a way that extends the scope of the invention. While you can edit the specification, this is really to better explain an aspect of your invention that was there from the start of the process, or remove something that you no longer want to be part of the invention. Anything that substantively adds to the application will be refused, so you’re better off taking time and care in your application so you don’t need to edit anything.
Your nervousness about talking to potential partners is understandable. However, if you simply sit on this idea, you risk somebody else coming up with the same thing independently, so you should start trying to get it to the market. A solid, legally binding Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) should deter potential partners or investors from acting unscrupulously. Many would-be inventors like you have innovative ideas but lack the means to develop them into marketable products. However, having a look at your options for advancing your invention – whether through external funding, Government grants, or simply selling the idea to an already-established company – may be helpful. Just contact us if you would like to set up an initial, no-obligation meeting.