For inventors, start-ups and established business, patents are a key tool in protecting valuable assets. However, it is not always economically feasible to incur costs of preparing and filing one or more applications at the beginning of a product development cycle, especially for inventions that are early in the development and have an uncertain marketability.
Prior to March 16, 2013, as long as inventions were sufficiently documented, kept confidential and pursued diligently, one had time for testing and development of inventions prior to filing a patent application, as the United States was a “first to invent” country. This enabled inventors and their employers more time to make a reasoned business decision on whether or not to file a patent application. While inventors are still free to wait and further develop inventions before filing a patent application, today the United States is a “first to file” country. What this means is that inventors now run a risk that if they wait too long to make a decision on patent protection, someone may beat them to the patent office and patent protection may be lost.
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