Recently, we announced that the United States Patent and Trademark Office issued five more patents to Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp., for a total of fifteen patents in our portfolio.

The patents range from innovative business credit and scoring solutions to cutting-edge credibility, verification, and reputation products. Additionally, we currently list over 60 filed patent applications, both domestic and international, intended to further deepen our patent suite across the business credit industry.

Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp. Chairman and CEO, Jeff Stibel, said that these and any future products and services show our “commitment to creating innovative technology and proprietary methods in order to help businesses succeed in the credit and credibility markets.”

You may be interested in creating innovative technology and business methods, but are overwhelmed by the idea of applying for and obtaining a patent. In the interest of making the process a little easier to digest, we have briefly answered some of the most common questions about patents.

What is a patent and what do they do?

Patents are property rights issued to a company or an inventor by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and are one of the ways a business can protect its intellectual property.

Patents are exclusive rights to an idea that prevent others from infringing or copying that idea. If your idea is stolen, you can take legal action and potentially use the patent as evidence that you own the rights to the idea. The payout from a patent infringement verdict in favor of the inventor can be huge, and can spur public recognition where credit is due.

How do I get a patent?

According to the USPTO, the nature of your invention must be first considered to determine which of three categories it falls under for the application: utility patent, design patent, or plant (green variety) patent. From there, your business must follow the highly specific list of rules and requirements to qualify for application.

The application process can be long, arduous, and expensive. But it can also be extremely worthwhile if you truly have something worth protecting. There is a catch; your patent application must be filed within exactly one year of publicly disclosing the invention. Dorsey & Whitney partner, Maria Swiatek, who has over a decade worth of experience in patent and intellectual property law says, “If you don’t file within one year, you’ve basically lost the opportunity to file a patent.” Although the one-year deadline may be intimidating, it is also a good way to test market the invention and see if it’s really worth investing in a patent.

If after making sure your patent qualifies for the application process, you find that you still have an interest in pursuing a patent, experts suggest going to a patent lawyer. The ins and outs of government bureaucracy can be complicated and time-consuming. These lawyers, who specialize in obtaining patents, will help provide reassurance that your patent application is done properly and thoroughly. While it also adds to the overall cost of getting a patent, a consultation may end up saving you a lot more money down the road.

As is the case with anything, there is risk in getting a patent. Sometimes even a brilliant idea and well-constructed plan are not enough to guarantee success, so it is best to strongly consider all of your options. That being said, where would we be today if some of the world’s greatest innovators had not taken a few risks?

Photo Credit: Hobvias Sudoneighm, Flickr