Patent application – best stage of development to apply?

Patent Application – When to apply for a patent in India ?

Calendar showing patent timeline
Patent application time strategy

Don’t make a mistake with a patent application, apply for a patent before publishing your invention anywhere in public domain. In India, in case of there two or more applicant for the same invention, ‘first to file patent system is followed. The applicant who applies for a patent first, gets the patent rights. This ‘first to file rule(Read first to file vs first to invent) emphasises need to file a patent as early as possible.

  • Before any development – Idea stage
  • Intermediate development – progress stage
  • Completely developed invention – Complete specification stage

1. Apply for a patent early, before any development

You can apply for a patent at any stage of your research and development. Yes, you can protect your invention even at just idea or concept stage. You can file a provisional patent application. Provisional patent application will secure a filing date or priority date of invention and it will also give you additional 12 months to submit the complete specification of an invention. In those 12 months if anybody else applies for a similar invention, then at later stage, their application gets rejected.

Applying for a patent too early may prove non-beneficial, in case of, complete specifications containing claims, outside the scope of the provisional application.    

Prototype, is it required for patent application?

At any stage of patent application, working prototype is not mandatory. Very rare applicants are asked to show a working prototype for a applied invention. Prototypes are required where, patent examiner couldn’t understand invention just by specifications and also where your claims are significant enough to bring revolutionary change in that particular field.   

2. Apply at intermediate development stage

Here, you may be in situation, where specifications are shaping up as you are developing the invention. In this case also, you can file a provisional patent application, provided that you are confident that all your future claims fall within the provisional specifications. This provisional application will help you to showcase your invention, without any worry of losing the rights.

3. Apply after complete development stage

You can file complete specifications of invention without applying for a provisional patent application at any stage. Generally, inventors file provisional application first to secure invention date and to get 12 months to develop good claims out of provisional specifications. In fund seeking or selling idea stage, inventors may run into a problem if the interested party wants to see invention working and sadly you hadn’t applied for a provisional specifications. Then, there is only way out is NDA(Non-Disclosure Agreement) signed between inventor and interested party to whom you will showcase your invention. This NDA will ensure that they cannot communicate or publish your invention, in any format, to anyone without your permission.       

Key to apply for a patent  

Everyone has their own judgement on when to file a patent application. Some inventors like to complete a market research, valuation and cost-benefit analysis before applying for a patent. Though, provisional patent application makes perfect sense to complete other tasks before submitting complete specifications, it comes with a trap. The trap can completely destroy a strategy of a well researched invention. The trap is-

“You can’t claim anything outside the scope of provisional specifications you filed with provisional patent application”  

This means you have to be aware of what you are going to claim. Also, you must know that how much broad protection you want for your invention. Too narrow scope of protection means, competitors can easily work around your invention without infringing your rights.

So, for many, intermediate stage with provisional patent application is the best way to apply for a patent in India. Read Patent registration process in India. 

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