Does patent filing help in initial fund raising for hardware startups? Or is it better to wait until after funding?

I think it’s difficult to give a one-size-fits all generic answer to this question. Deciding when to file a patent application is always going to involve a balancing of cost, risk and potential reward. My impression is that having a patent application pending is unlikely to make or break an angel investment round. While it may be more helpful in later rounds, I think it’s unwise to file a patent application strictly for the purpose of attracting investors. Most won’t be impressed by a “patent pending” label, and at least some of those who are will be smart enough to see through a weakly crafted patent application. Do it well or don’t do it all. Doing it well requires filing a patent application after it’s too early, but before it’s too late. I’ve seen many patent applications that were filed “too early” as well as many that were filed “too late.” The ones that were filed “too early” generally suffered either from a too-cursory description and drawings. This is usually a result of efforts to save costs. An insufficient description typically winds up causing problems when it becomes necessary to narrow claims during prosecution (which happens in almost all cases). If there isn’t enough detail, drawings and written description support to make valuable narrowing amendments, then a patent application can wind up stuck between having disclosed the basic gist of the invention but not having enough detail to get the claims allowed. By the time this is discovered, it’s usually too late to do much about it. In some cases, patent applications get filed “too early” in the sense...

Should patents have dynamic patent monopoly lengths?

This is based on a Quora question. There are a lot of potential meanings to the phrase “dynamic patent monopoly lengths,” but by one definition, they may already exist. Most patent offices in the world charge some type of “maintenance fee” at regular time intervals after a patent is granted, or even while pending in some cases. Failure to pay such maintenance fees results in the patent rights expiring before the theoretical “full” term of the patent or patent application. For example, in the US, maintenance fees are due at 4, 8, and 12 years after the patent’s grant date. If the all of the maintenance fees are paid, the patent will have a full term of 20 years from filing (or 17 from issuance, or as adjusted by patent term adjustments, or as modified by a terminal disclaimer, etc. – it’s complicated).   Only something around 50% of patents are maintained for their full terms (see: Patent Maintenance Fees), so the rest only have a term that is as long as the maintenance fees are paid. Seems like a “dynamic” length to...

Can I release an invention to test the market and then patent it after if it looks like it’s going to sell?

In the US, you would have one year from a public disclosure to file a patent application. However, most countries don’t give as much time. In most countries outside of the US, most notably at the European Patent Office, patents are evaluated from an “absolute novelty” standard, meaning that any sales or other public disclosure of an invention can eliminate the ability to get a patent for that invention. The one-year clock in the US is colloquially called a “grace period,” and very few other countries grant them. Canada provides a 1-year grace period, and Japan provides a 6-month grace period, but the details of how they are implemented varies, so it’s critical to consult with a patent professional in those countries before relying on grace periods. The most common strategy pursued by those looking to market-test a product is to file a US provisional patent application before testing the market. The provisional application acts as a place-holder for a filing date. You then have exactly one year from the provisional application filing date to file a non-provisional patent application which will be treated as-if it was filed on the provisional filing date, but only with respect to the subject matter that was adequately described in the provisional. So, it’s worth being as thorough as possible in writing the provisional, but it can be done at a relatively low cost as compared with a non-provisional.   Based on my Quora answer to the question: Can I release an invention of mine to test the market and then patent it after if it looks like it’s going to...