The United States changed its patent system in March 2013 with the introduction of the America Invents Act. This act made a number of changes to the patent system, including patents being awarded on a first-to-file basis rather than first-to-invent. Instead of having to prove who invented a patent first if two or more people file applications for the same invention, the U.S. system awards a patent to the first inventor who files an application. This creates an incentive to file a patent, but there are risks that inventors face, including the risk of revealing his invention to others or putting an application out too quickly.


Self Filing



An inventor takes on a huge risk if he decides to file a patent application, or even a provisional patent application, himself without the help of an attorney. Some inventors choose to go this route in order to save on costs, but it can end up hurting them in the end. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has specific rules on how a patent must be filed, including detailed information about every part of the invention, a list of any possible prior art and related inventions, a thorough patent search and detailed drawings. If an inventor doesn't file his application correctly, he risks having his application rejected. In the first-to-file system of the U.S., a rejected patent could mean he loses his invention's patentability completely. 





When an inventor files a patent, he takes on the risk that the fees he has to pay will eventually pay off when his invention becomes profitable. If it doesn't, he may be in the hole. Although an inventor with less than four applications on record with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has to pay only $400 for a full application, hiring an attorney to prepare the application can cost as much as $10,000. In addition, he may face follow-up costs if the USPTO agent doesn't approve his application right away. In those cases, he may have to pay more fees to have an attorney make amendments to the application until it gets approved. 





After the America Invents Act went into effect, other inventors and companies had more chances to fight patents. Once a patent is awarded, any third party can challenge it for up to nine months after the patent is granted. By filing a patent, an inventor takes on the risk of getting unexpected legal costs from these post-grant oppositions. In Europe, which has a post-grant opposition system, larger companies use this tactic to stall new inventors before they can get a competing product approved and on the market.


Losing Secrets



When filing a patent application, an inventor risks losing all secrecy to his project. One requirement of a patent is that it's so detailed, a person of similar skill could create the same invention. This allows for free sharing of information so other inventors can improve on the patent or use the invention themselves when the patent expires in 20 years. However, by filing a patent application you're making all the details of your invention public. This means that the secret's out about your invention. If your patent's rejected, you can't put the cat back in the bag and claim trade secrets in the future. For example, if you own a soda company that created a secret formula for a drink flavor, that formula is legally protected as long as you don't share it. But if you file a patent application and reveal the formula, you won't have trade secret protection or patent protection if the patent is rejected. 





Choosing to file a patent application isn't always an easy decision. You have to make sure that you're ready to file and don't want to keep a trade secret. You also need to make sure that you have an attorney at your side making sure that the filing adheres to all relevant law. But don't wait too long to file, or you might lose your chance to do so altogether.