If you're an engineer and you've come up with a better "mouse trap," you had better know how to protect your idea. If you don't, it can be taken from you by virtually anyone who wants to capitalize on it.
Regrettably, design engineers who come up with new ideas are easy prey for those who engage in piracy, counterfeiting, and the theft of their intellectual property. Engineers often lack access to the intellectual property protections enjoyed by corporations. Self-employed engineers or small business owners must acquaint themselves with the processes and procedures of intellectual property protection.
A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor. Patents are granted for new, useful and non-obvious inventions for a period of 20 years from the filing date of a patent application. They provide the right to exclude others from exploiting the invention during that period.
Inventive engineers generally apply for either utility patents or design patents. If you're unsure as to whether or not your design can be protected by patent, contact the U.S Patent Office.
To secure a patent, you'll need to process an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The process is complex and you should retain the services of a registered patent attorney or patent agent.
For an additional perspective, check out this video:
Alex A. Kecskes has written hundreds of published articles on health/fitness, "green" issues, TV/film entertainment, restaurant reviews and many other topics. As a former Andy/Belding/One Show ad agency copywriter, he also writes web content, ads, brochures, sales letters, mailers and scripts for national B2B and B2C clients.