Over the last few years I have been involved in a few successful patent applications but personal experience doesn’t always represent the whole picture so when a client reflected on a different experience with the patent process I figured I’d better do some research on the subject. I called the patent lawyer we often refer clients to. Nathan Woodruff was very helpful and I definitely learned some things. For instance, I was under the impression that either your application was accepted and you received your patent or it was rejected and you were done. Not so our patent lawyer tells me. In fact a significant amount of the applications are rejected on the first examination. The next step is then to respond to the Examiner – and this process can be repeated more than once, and often is.
Nathan suggested you could compare the process to selling your home. You as the seller are quite optimistic about the value of your home (idea), whereas the buyer (in this case the patent office) is quite pessimistic about that same value. After you go through the process – like multiple offers and counter offers – you often reach an understanding or agreement and potentially the patent application is approved.
The other thing that I now have a better understanding of is this whole notion of ‘patent pending’. In Canada you have up to 5 years to request an examination of your application. Responding to the Examiner just leaves your patent application in this pending state. I suppose one of the positives with this pending state is your idea or invention will not be published for the world to see. This may be important as you work on testing or perfecting the technical aspects or even your marketing strategy but ultimately you will not have the protection that a patent was designed to offer. You will not be able to defend or protect your idea/invention from those potential copycat competitors.
Something else you may want to keep in mind as with a lot of things, the longer it takes the more it costs. I am certainly wiser and I sure appreciated being able to call on an expert.