Whether you’re a full-time medical practitioner or simply a person with a fresh, new idea, discovering an innovative healthcare solution is an exciting start to a long, and hopefully fruitful, journey to bringing your idea to life. But intellectual property (IP) — which is the result of your idea or creation — can be an intimidating subject matter to virtually anyone, seasoned or novice.

Here at Edison Nation Medical, we partner with numerous intellectual property attorneys, providing medical inventors, at various stages of innovation, with access to valuable information and resources about the patent application process. Across the board, inventors most frequently ask about IP — specifically, whether or not their idea is patentable. While the answer isn’t clear-cut or simple, there are key points that inventors should take under consideration before starting the long, expensive process of seeking some form of IP protection.

Owning an Idea
To start, many inventors question who actually has ownership over an idea. While, in general, an idea’s originator is its owner, ownership rights can be assigned before or after a new innovation through various legal contracts. It’s important to note that certain industries, such as higher education and healthcare, likely have their own policies relating to works created during a person’s employment with them, which could result in an employer becoming your idea’s owner.

Protecting an Idea
Depending on the kind of idea you’re looking to protect, patent protection is not your only option. There are actually three types of intellectual property: Patents, trademarks and copyrights. Patents can be time-consuming and costly to obtain — sometimes taking years to secure, but in order to commercialize your product, patent protection is essential.

Then, there are trademarks, which generally protect logos, symbols and/or names of products from others who are then unable to use its likeness to possibly mislead consumers. Finally, there are copyrights, which stop others others from copying, adapting, distributing renting and/or performing another’s work without permission. While patent protection will likely provide more peace of mind than that of a trademark or copyright, it’s important to understand all of your options before committing to the lengthy (and costly) patent application process.

Making Sure No One Steals an Idea
When an idea is being developed, tested and manufactured, the process can be rather visible. Whether you are seeking business advice, shopping around for materials or securing a manufacturer, you will likely end up sharing your innovative idea with many different people. As a result, inventors should ensure their idea — patented or unpatented — is protected throughout this process. That’s where a nondisclosure (or confidentiality) agreement plays a vital role. When it’s signed by multiple parties, no one can legally disclose details and/or benefit from your invention unless you specifically say otherwise.

Licensing an Idea
Many novice inventors have heard about licensing their idea or product, but many may not know what it actually entails. Licensing is the buying of rights to intellectual property with the intent to produce it for profit. For instance, an inventor who licenses his or her invention generally earns a percentage of total sales from a manufacturer or idea incubator. In order for it to be legally binding, a licensing agreement must be signed by all parties involved, and it may contain a range of special clauses.

 Now that you understand the basics of IP, it’s time to put your innovative thinking to good use — submit your invention idea today!