To Patent Or Not To Patent

Published by Mike Michalowicz (Google+)

Many people are stopped in their tracks of “invention mode” because someone suggests they patent their idea before moving forward. Hey folks – at least get the idea flushed out, sampled, prototyped, or something before you let someone convince you to put the breaks on. You will find many products that do not have a patent are highly successful.

There are two kinds of patents: Utility and Design.

In general terms, a “utility patent” protects the way an article is used and works, while a “design patent” protects the way an article looks. Both design and utility patents may be obtained on an article if invention resides both in its utility and ornamental appearance.

Patenting can be appropriate for some things and not for others. It’s best to consult with an IP attorney before making any rash decisions by yourself….or worse…..letting someone else bully you into the wrong decision.

Yes, patents can protect you, but they are very expensive and unless you know 100% for sure that yours is impenetrable…….you might want to think twice before committing a ton of money that you could use to develop and manufacture your product. In other words, if you don’t have the money to defend an infringement….. the patent may not do you a whole lot of good in the long run.

Believe it or not, there are companies out there that monitor new patents and see if they have “holes” and are worth “stealing” and patenting over them.

There is no “Patent Police” nor does US Customs protect your patent from importers who have copied it overseas. (US Customs does however protect Trademarks).

If you want to see if anything similar to your idea has been patented, you can give it a shot on the government website at

Remember…….being copied is the sincerest form of flattery!

By Sarah Shaw, Founder of Entreprenette
Sarah Shaw is the founder of, a consulting company that works with entrepreneurs in bringing their product to market. Sarah grew her own million dollar company with her famous “Pinked” handbag and has applied her expertise and knowledge to her consulting practice. Sarah has been featured in the LA Times, WWD, Oprah Magazine, as well as on Access Hollywood and regularly speaks to inventors and entrepreneurs nationally.

Category: The Back Office, Women Entrepreneurs
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  • Inventionpartner

    Being copied might be the sincerest form of flattery but it is no fun if it is your product. I agree with your comments about carefully evaluating your idea AND the value of the patent before committing money to it. Patents are very expensive and the money used on a patent could and often should often be used on marketing. Patents can help though if used properly.

    • Mike Michalowicz

      @Inventionpartner – True dat! When it is your thing being copied… is sucks, and emotions can kick into overdrive. That is where we need to be careful… the immediate reaction to “sue the life” out of the other guy, often hurts a million times more than it delivers the desired resolution. An ounce of prevention is worth one hundred pounds of cure.