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I have an idea about possible creation of a product that in my opinion would be on demand among smartphone users. I have found a potential company In Switzerland and I think about offering them my idea.

I am planning to patent my project before presenting it to them, however it seems like it would cost me a lot of money to apply for a patent in Switzerland due to my financial capabilities and considering that I am from a different country it is impossible for me to apply for a patent, but I really need to somehow protect my project before showing it!

Do you know another way to do it? I would be glad to hear your opinion about this issue!

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    Ideas are not patentable, in any event. – phoog Jan 28 '16 at 17:31
  • I know it!!! In my case I mean the patent for a device or a product that i want to make real. I can easily apply for a patent of my invention, but I dont have such amounts, that's the problem. – alpha69 Jan 28 '16 at 20:30
  • The United States provides for a one-year grace period in which inventors are allowed to publicize their invention without having to file for a patent. You could see if Swiss law has similar provisions. – Justin Lardinois Jan 30 '16 at 0:31
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You can file a U.S. provisional patent application now, which you can then convert into a regular ("nonprovisional") application within a year. The provisional application is relatively simple and inexpensive, and it will give you an opportunity to explore your business possibilities and assess whether you want to spend more money on patent work later. It will also leave your options open for filing a PCT (Patent Cooperation Treaty) application that can be the basis of a later application in Switzerland (and many other countries as well, if you so choose). This way, you won't have to pursue the expensive translation and European filing fees until much farther down the road, but you'll still have the benefit of the original filing date of the provisional application.

Another benefit of the provisional application: if you aren't ready to convert it within a year, you can simply abandon it and it will go unpublished, keeping all the information in it secret.

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Ideas in themselves are not patentable.

Patents are for inventions and there are several constraints to what an invention is. An invention must represent something that is new as compared to the state of the art. For instance, the first Walkman from Sony was not patentable. Basically it was a small radio receiver / tape player with earphone. In this case, nothing was an "invention". The idea of the early "Walkman" was an innovation, not an invention, and hence was not patentable.

One big trap with an invention is that if someone knows about it, especially if your invention was published, it is no longer patentable, because the invention no longer brings anything new to the state of the art.

Another big trap is that a patent is published. Hence you loose the "know-how" and "secrets" related to your invention. Your competitors could go faster than you. Patenting an invention worldwide costs a lot and even if you did it, you will need way more money to monitor the market and protect your invention with legal actions. For the small inventor, it is usually more efficient patenting in one country and selecting the provisional (1 year valid) extension for patenting woldwide. During this year, try to find a business partner or buyer of your invention that has the financial strength to conduct legal actions.

When something is not an invention, a good alternative to patents are trademarks and registered brands. The "Walkman" is an excellent example how brands can sometimes be more efficient than a patent. At the early age of portable tape players, people were going to electronic shops telling things like "I would like to purchase a Walkman for my grandson ...". Indirectly, they were asking the Sony product, although other manufacturers like Toshiba had entered the competition with similar devices.

Another alternative for a product is registered industrial design. For example, folding scooters are not patentable. Basically the idea is a trotinette with a hinge. Nothing that the state of the art doesn't know. Hence not an invention. In such as case, a solution can be to protect a specific part, like the hinge fixing mechanism, with a registered design if you know that your design is better than the alternative solutions that possible competitors could find.

One simple and low cost technique to protect your idea, is to send it to yourself in a closed envelope (eg. the plans of your design, a CD containing the code of your software, a.s.o.) that you won't open. Make sure than the postage stamp is well visible and use some technique that certifies that the envelope has not been opened. It doesn't protect your "invention" in itself, but if one of your possible "partners" tries to steal your invention, registers patent or design, or steal the code of your software you can prove that the paternity is anterior and yours. (The envelope must be opened by a judge.) You can also deposit your documents to a notary, but it will cost more. Or apply both techniques.

National intellectual property offices often have good documentation about intellectual property. I would suggest visiting the What is a patent? page by the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property.

I would also suggest that you visit the Wipo's site.

  • Note: I'm not a lawyer and above cannot replace the advices of professional law firms specialized in intellectual property. – OuzoPower Sep 19 at 11:32
  • I don’t believe that sending yourself a sealed envelope provides any protection whatsoever. If you want to disclose your invention to a third party, you should execute a confidentiality agreement and document what is disclosed. – Eric Shain Sep 29 at 14:28
  • Sending yourself a sealed envelope does not replace a confidentiality agreement but is complementary. It can be useful to prevent others from stealing your copyright for instance. Assume you're writing source code, someone steals your code and publish it before you, claiming that he's the author. If you had burnt a CD with your code and posted it at a date that is anterior to the date the thief claims having written the code, the sealed enveloppe can be useful in a court of law to proove the anterior paternity. The same technique can also serve in other contexts of intellectual property. – OuzoPower Sep 30 at 17:37
  • Mailing something to yourself is of zero value in the case of patents. Now that the U.S. is a first-to-file country (as of the AIA) no date matters other than the date of filing. It is way to easy too fake a mailed sealed letter (don't actually seal it until much later when you add the document in question - then seal it.) for it to really be of any value as evidence. – George White Sep 30 at 21:41
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    The question isn’t about copyright it’s about protecting a potential invention. – Eric Shain Oct 1 at 0:36

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