There are many examples of applicants self-filing patent applications without the required knowledge of the patent system, sometimes comically so (for example, see provisional application 2016904753 and innovation patent 2013101253).
WIPO Launches Inventor Assistance (IAP)
The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) data shows that up to 60% of patent applications filed by locals in developing countries will be abandoned or rejected before they can be examined. The reason for this is a lack of knowledge of the patent system among these locals. A problem in developing nations is that inventors or small businesses may not have the funds to pay for the advice of a patent attorney.
In late 2016, WIPO officially launched a new initiative which aims to open up the patent system to under-resourced inventors and small businesses in developing nations. The Inventor Assistance Program (IAP) was successfully piloted in Colombia, Morocco and the Philippines, and WIPO hopes there will be a wider global uptake in the near future.
The program works by placing inventors without the funds to realise the potential of their ideas in contact with local patent attorneys. The patent attorneys signing up for the scheme must agree to provide advice on a pro-bono basis. The patent attorneys must also provide these inventors with the same service that they would provide to their paying clients.
The program intends to increase the use of the patent system worldwide in a way that makes it accessible to everyone no matter what their background circumstances are.
The advantages for pro-bono attorneys are that they will be able to use the work to develop their skills as a patent attorney, particularly if they are relatively inexperienced. The attorneys will also be invested in the system because it should help their wider community to become more developed and will hopefully eventually provide them with a paying client with a thriving business.
The IAP is not intended for use in developed nations such as Australia, where the population has higher wealth than in developing countries. However, there are still a number of patent applications in Australia that are self-filed by the applicant each year. In some of these cases the applicant will not have a detailed knowledge of the patent system or fully understand what is required to obtain enforceable patent rights. In such cases, it is likely that the potential value of the applicant’s idea will never be realised. This is why it is very important to obtain informed advice from a patent professional as early as possible.
Self-filing a patent application without first consulting an IP professional can lead to several problems, including:
- insufficiently describing the invention to the extent that obtaining useful patent protection will be impossible; and
- wasting money on filing a patent application for an unpatentable idea, for example, in some cases a design application may be more appropriate but no longer possible due to the disclosures of a previously filed patent application.