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Successful inventors share their secrets - Part I

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In this second article in our series on the use of Intellectual Property (IP) by small and medium businesses (SMEs), we discuss a number of lessons shared with us by inventors who have gone through the process of conceiving an invention and developing the invention to a market-ready product. Provisional patent application filed, what next? A provisional patent application is typically the first step in securing patent protection for an invention and provides an applicant with an initial period of 12 months within which to develop the invention further and also to test the market.  As any patent applicant will attest to, that initial 12 months goes by very quickly.  It is, therefore, critical that once a provisional application has been filed that immediate steps be taken to develop and market the invention. If a patent applicant does not take further steps in securing final protection by the 12 month deadline, such as commencing a foreign filing program, the provisional patent application will lapse. Embarking on a foreign patent filing program may have significant cost implications for an SME, and an inventor, therefore, has to put himself/herself in the best possible position to make a decision on whether to proceed with such a patent program.  Although it is possible to delay the deadlines resulting for filing a provisional patent application by simply holding off on filing a provisional application in the first place, such delay may result in the loss of priority rights to the invention and the possibility of securing valid patent protection. In the initial stages of developing an invention, SMEs may be cash-strapped and require the financial backing of third parties.  Some inventors commented that their first steps after lodgement of a provisional application was to seek financial backing, typically by approaching family members and acquaintances.  Others also sought to partner with third parties in the field of technology to which their inventions related. Another avenue explored by inventors was to approach government agencies offering grants for innovation.  Useful information on government grant programs can be found on the website maintained by AusIndustry: http://www.ausindustry.gov.au/Pages/AusIndustry.aspx The importance of test results for SMEs One inventor commented that after he received a government grant he invested most of the grant funds in having tests conducted on his invented product as well as on existing products.  The results of those tests proved his concept and enabled him to approach market leaders with an alternative to existing products.  Particularly the test results supported his arguments that his invented product addressed a number of long existing drawbacks associated with known products. The inventor commented that without those test results to back his invention he would not have had a foot in the door with potential customers.  In particular, test results can be very useful where an existing practice exists in a specific industry and the invented product suggests a radical departure from such practice. Networking The importance of networking cannot be overstressed - a new invention simply cannot be adopted in an industry if industry leaders are not aware of the product.  The general advice from successful inventors is: speak to everybody everywhere and at anytime about the invention as one never knows whom a person may be connected to.  One inventor commented that one of his big breaks came from simply making conversation with the person seated next to him on a flight between Brisbane and Sydney. Also, do not limit networking to persons within the industry to which the invention relates.  Persons in other industries may have a specific requirement which the invention addresses and which is absent from existing products, or they may refer you to someone in their own network. In our next article we will consider matters such as the use of consultants, activities in China and IP holding companies. Article by André Meyer, Associate at Spruson & Ferguson

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