Sometimes, You Can Skip the Patent

by John Burke

1 min read

Imagine that you’ve invented something new that you expect to revolutionize your industry. Conventional wisdom has it that you need to get down to the patent office to protect your intellectual property as soon as possible, lest somebody pirate your good idea and make all the money. The conventional wisdom might be wrong here, though. The patent process in Canada is more complicated than copyright or other types of idea protection, and the process of getting and enforcing your patent might be more trouble than it’s worth. To get a patent, you have to file an application that can run to dozens of pages and describe, sometimes in excruciating detail, just what your invention is and why it needs protection. To get any use out of it, assuming your application is granted, you’re on the hook to police unauthorized uses of your innovation and enforce your claim. Unless your invention is the next iPad, or you know a lawyer who works for free, this part of the process can wind up costing you far more than you lose from just letting somebody sneak out their own version of the device or process you went to such trouble to invent.Instead of automatically investing in a potential white elephant of a patent – and all the headaches and expenses that go with it – consider just using your device for a while without the patent. If you don’t have to disclose the technical details of your invention to the government, it’s a lot easier to keep them secret and thus hard to copy. Preventing the release of the tech specs also may make it easier to get a patent later, when you’re sure it’s worth it. In Canada, the early release and publication of technical details may actually make it harder to get a patent, whereas keeping it under your hat ensures you come to the Patent Office (if you eventually bother) with a fresh, unheard-of innovation that you’re proud to call your own.

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