What kind of patent are you going for? A “Design Patent” or a Utility Patent"?
I currently am the holder of eight utility patents. I’ve litigated the merits of a patent twice. Here’s what I’ve know regarding patents:
Patents take anywhere from 18 months to 2-1/2 years to get issued once the patent application is applied for, assuming you have a novel idea that has no patent applied for prior art. While the application is being examined, the product must display a “patent pending” label when sold or shown in public. Failure to do so can result in voiding a patent.
Prior art may exist that the patent office is not aware of that can also void a patents’ enforcement. You must be sure you really own a novel idea.
Cost of a patent is dependant on how many claims are asked, how complex the design is, and what are the patenteable features. Generally, a patent with about ten claims and a fairly clear cut concept run from $3500-$5000.
Design patents cover merely the aesthetic “look” of the product, while utiliy patents cover the execution of the function of the product.
To design around a patent is also fairly easy, unless the execution of the function is really the only way the product will work. All you have to do is design a competitive product such that one or more of the conditions of each claim are missing.
Defending a patent is costly. The first time, the cost was 18 months litigation and over $250,000. We prevailed. The second one was almost three years litigation, cost almost $2 million and we lost based on a definition of terms. This “definition” issue cost us $8 million.
Also, patents issued in the US are not enforcable if someone knocks you off and sells the product overseas. Its jurisdiction is only in the USA. You must apply for foreign patents and be willing to litigate in a foreign country if infringement happens.
Overall, patents are good if your concept is really sound and the alternatives are cumbersome and not easily designed around. You must have money to defend them. Pretty much anything can be designed around as not to infringe.
Its really better to just have the best design and be competitive from that standpoint instead of trying to patent useless, silly things.
For what its worth.