When you want to apply for a patent, you must submit all of the correct paperwork. It helps if you have a patent attorney who knows all of the many rules and regulations of a patent application. To get a patent on anything, that thing must be completely your own and it must be unique. The application process takes several months to process because a patent examiner must research to make sure that what you want to patent qualifies to receive the patent. Once a patent is granted, no one else can steal your idea.
Do you have an idea that you believe could be the next big thing? It may not be as groundbreaking as the telephone or the light bulb, but it will make a difference in people’s lives. Perhaps you’ve been dreaming of the invention throughout your life, or have even devoted years to developing and perfecting your design.
In many cases, inventors should apply for a patent to protect their product. A patent gives the product’s creator the right to exclude others from exploiting the invention throughout the patent’s time period. Typically, inventions that are innovative and likely to achieve commercial success are the best candidates for patents.
While many people assume that undergoing the patent process requires an attorney, this isn’t always the case. You may be surprised to know that you can apply for a patent yourself. Here is a useful guide that will help you become familiar with the patent system.
Keep Records of the Invention Process
The information you can provide about your invention is vital to successfully navigating the patent system. Throughout the invention process, record each step in a notebook. Create diagrams, and describe any feature modifications you make. Be sure to note when you came up with the idea for the invention, and record the date.
Depending on the type of invention, it may be necessary to build and test a prototype. Document all of your experiments, and sign and date each page. It’s also helpful to have two witnesses present who can sign.
Know Your Patent Type
Ideas alone do not qualify for a patent. When you decide to apply for a patent, you will need to demonstrate that your product works, and all inventions must be new. Your product must be different in a significant way from previously created devices. It’s also important that your invention isn’t already listed for sale or known about by consumers.
Your invention will fall into a specific patent category depending on what type of product it is. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office provides three different types of patents: utility, design, and plant.
The most common type of patent is the utility patent, which includes inventions that produce useful and tangible results, items with moving parts or circuitry, or an improvement on an existing invention. If your invention meets the utility patent criteria, it is then referred to as “statutory subject matter.” This is the first step in qualifying for a patent.
Design patents are required to be novel, not obvious, and not functional. An example would be a new shape for packaging that may change its look, but does not improve upon its functionality.
Lastly, plant patents may be issued if the plant is novel and nonobvious. This is the rarest type of patent.
Analyze the Marketability of Your Invention
Once you have determined that your invention qualifies for a patent, it is time to determine the invention’s marketability. What benefit does your invention provide for customers? You will need to research your target market, as well as any potential competitors in the market you wish to enter.
The decision to apply for a patent ultimately is a business one. Applying for a patent costs approximately $1,500 in fees, so it’s important that your invention has the potential for commercial success.
Conduct a Patent Search
Once you’ve determined that your product is useful and marketable, it’s important to ensure that no one else has had the same bright idea. You must be sure your invention is new before going to apply for a patent.
You’ll need to do your research in order to be certain that your idea is original. This can involve searching U.S. patent databases, scientific journals, and technical journals. The search process can be tedious, but gets easier with practice.
The Internet can be a useful tool when it comes to patent search, but you can also reach out to a Patent and Trademark Depository. Here you can search for earlier patents and even receive help from a librarian.
Throughout your patent search, it’s likely that you will find other inventions that are similar to yours. The key is to demonstrate how your creation improves upon or is different from the previously developed products or devices.
Prepare and File an Application
After thoroughly testing and researching your invention, it is time to file an application with the USPTO. When filing your application, you have two options: file a regular application, or a provisional patent application.
Since 1995, the PPA has been offered as a lower-cost way for inventors to apply for a patent. Many inventors opt to file the PPA, as it involves a fraction of the work and costs associated with filing a regular patent application. While it isn’t an application for the patent itself, a PPA allows you to achieve “patent pending” status.
All you will need to file a PPA is a concise description of your invention, instructions on how to use it and build it, and a drawing of the device. The fee for filing a PPA ranges from $65 for micro entities to $260 for a large company.
You must file a regular patent application within one year of filing the PPA. If you fail to do so, you will no longer be able to claim patent pending status.
Benefits of Patenting
The main benefit of patenting is that it provides inventors with legal protection. When you patent your invention, you will shield your idea from others who wish to build or sell it without your consent. This gives you peace of mind as you develop your product and market it to customers.
Patents also provide several financial incentives. Patents often increase in value over time, and also increases the value of your business. Potential business investors often consider patents to be a valuable asset. Should you choose to sell your idea, the patent can be sold to another business. Patents can also be licensed to other parties.
With commitment to your idea and proper research, obtaining a patent does not have to be a difficult process. Whether you are a large business or sole proprietor, a patent is an important asset that ensures that only you or your company benefits from your hard work.