You spent a lot of time creating and perfecting your invention to ensure its success. As you prepare to launch full-fledged into the process, the next step is to obtain a patent to ensure the ownership of your invention. With your invention, of course, you are worried that other inventors may be able to copy it by adding their own twist to the design to copy your patent. This is why employing a patent attorney to complete and write up your patent is very important. If you lodged your own patent application, you might have missed or potentially miss a few obvious things that other inventors or individuals may find ways around. Despite the best of intentions in completing the application on your own, it is always in your best interest to hire a professional to complete the legal aspect of your invention in order to ensure the patent of your design and idea.
We have a shelf that is hung up using nails. What is to stop another individual from coming up with the same idea but, instead of using nails, they use screws? What if they use a form of adhesive? What about a hanging system as an alternative to nails?
The best way to defeat this possibility is to broaden your patent enough to ensure that it covers all avenues and considerations. Instead of specifying nails in the patent, specify fasteners as a general term and then, further specify that fasteners may be screws, nails and all other types of fasteners that can be utilized in application of the invention.
As an inventor, if you are still concerned about the expanse of your patent and its allowances, you should have a full understanding of the Doctrine of Equivalents. Since the mid-eighteenth century courts have recognized the “Doctrine of Equivalents”. This originated from the need to provide an extra effort to protect patents further so inventors would not lose the will to innovate out of fear of stolen ideas.
If the product or patent essentially performs the same function in substantially the same way to achieve the same results, then the new product infringes on the patent of the original under the Doctrine of Equivalents.
Now, to return to the example of the shelf in regard to the Doctrine of the Equivalents: fitting the shelf to the wall with screws instead of nails will infringe on your patent even though you don’t specify screws in the patent itself.
The Doctrine of Equivalents helps assure inventors obtain the strongest patent possible to eliminate the opportunity of a competitor pirating a patented invention by making insignificant changes. In most cases, the competitor will not be able to get around the patent as the court system will invoke the Doctrine of Equivalents to protect your original invention.
Generally speaking, if done correctly the answer is, “No.”