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Why you should protect your invention

why you should protect your inventionAlexander Graham Bell was undoubtedly an active inventor, but the telephone, which he patented in 1876, initially was not functional at all. Three other inventors were working on the same invention, and some of those even provided the basis for his patent, while the inventions from Antonio Meucci, Johann Philipp Reis and Elisha Gray. were even better developed than Bell's. But posthumous fame is of no use to an inventor. History shows how important it is to protect an invention in good time.


There are always double inventions

All inventors build on the technical knowledge accumulated by generations before them. Others are trying to solve similar problems to those you are working on, often by similar means. You are investing time and money in development, so it is legitimate to wish that at some point you will get rewarded - by marketing a product relying on your invention, for example. To avoid anyone forestalling this, you should protect your invention as early as possible. Elisha Gray is reported to have been at the patent office just two hours after Bell's lawyer!

In patent law, the first person to file a patent application counts - "the winner takes it all". Even if it's your invention, it cannot be marketed if someone else was faster than you! To avoid working in vain, it is sensible to carry out a patent search as early as possible.


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Protection against imitators

Another reason why you should protect your invention, as well as a trademark or design under which you want to market it: As soon as an idea seems promising, imitators and counterfeiters will try to make money from it. Being a copycat is even considered a business strategy nowadays and not prohibited either as long as there is no infringement of intellectual property incurred. According to a study, around 60 percent of all queried companies experience that one of their new products is copied in the first year after launch. This maybe proves that it was a good idea. Nevertheless, it would most likely be preferable to earn money with your product. If an item is as new and special that you can keep competitors off your back with a property right, why not take advantage of this?

patent your inention, trademark oder design


Product piracy problem

Product counterfeiters are even more problematic. In some cases, the product is almost similar, in other ones, even name and packaging are copied as well. Hence, customers are betrayed deliberately. While a comparatively cheap Rolex must make people suspicious, lesser known brands offer product pirates huge opportunities to earn loads of money with inferior copies, without consumers even noticing. Counterfeit products will not only reduce earnings. Lower quality products sold under a false brand name will also damage the image of the real brand as well. How impressively similar counterfeited items can look becomes obvious every year when the Plagiarius campaign chooses the plagiarism of the year.


You can protect your invention in the following way:




Utility Model




Technical invention

Technical invention


Aesthetic product design


Comprehensive examination process




For how long?

20 years

10 years

10 years, indefinitely renewable

5 years, maximum 25 years


National, regional, international(PCT)


National, regional, international

National, regional, international


Better position than copiers

A patent application, registration as utility model, design or trademark is unable to prevent copiers and product piracy in advance. However, intellectual property rights at least provide their holder with legal means to take action against counterfeiters. In some cases, the distinctions between legal counterfeit and illegal copy are not easy to draw. The better a product is protected (e.g. by patent, utility model, trademark, or design), the lesser are counterfeiter's chances in court. Note that a manufacturer can legally market a copied product in other parts of the world than those for which the protection right has been granted. It is therefore useful to consider protecting patents, trademarks and designs on an international level from the beginning onwards

Informationen zu Patenten und Marken

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Would you like to set up a company whose business idea includes a technical invention that you want to patent? Then you should not go public with the details too early.

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Silence is gold

An inventor thinking about marketing his idea might want to start making its development public as early as possible. But this is not advisable for various reasons. For a patent to be granted, the idea must be a technical novelty, i.e. an invention. It cannot simply be derived from an already known state of the art. Any personal publications and ideas will also contribute to the overall picture as well.

Moreover, going public too early entails the risk of imitators and product copiers noticing such new ideas. For instance, a young Israeli had developed an iPhone case folding out as selfie-stick and had placed this invention on a crowdfunding portal. Many liked the idea and funded it - but then, before he was able to market his idea for himself, a copy of the product was being sold by the online platform Alibaba, and for a much cheaper price.


Watch the market

It is good practice to keep eyes and ears open for what your competitors are doing. Online trading is particularly notorious for selling plagiarism. The sooner an illegal copy is topped, the better for your own sales. Obviously, keeping a close eye on the market makes sense anyway. After all, you still want to earn money tomorrow and know where the trend is heading. Before starting a new product yourself, you should of course check whether you are unintentionally infringing other people's property rights.


Intellectual property rights help in the search for investors

A patent for your invention grants a temporary monopoly helping you launch your product to market. This also plays an important when looking for potential investors: the better the chances of selling the product, the greater the probability that the investment will pay off. Thus, even if you don't plan to participate among the entrepreneurs, it is advisable to protect an invention with potential. Because then, by selling the patent or granting licenses for its use, your development work is more easily refinanced.