HOW TO PATENT AN IDEA
How to patent an invention with World Patent Marketing.

GETTING A PATENT IS AS EASY AS 1-2-3

NOT SO FAST – YOU PROBABLY HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU ARE GETTING INTO

Read on to find out how to patent an idea.

You’ve worked hard to create your inventions, and after all of the hard work, your invention ideas are finally ready to be put on the market and change the world. But how do you protect your idea? How do you protect it and prevent others from just copying all of your hard work?

The answer is quite simple, you need a patent. The United States Patent and Trademark Office issues patents for inventions that are original and useful.

Getting a patent can be a time-consuming and tedious process; but a patent is the very best way to protect your invention idea, so that you can earn money or royalties from your invention. In order to make the process easier, you can bring in professional help to help you usher your patent through the process. Of course, a thorough understanding of how to get a patent is a good idea, even if you do eventually choose to hire a patent lawyer or patent agent to help you take your invention idea through the process. This invention guide explains how to develop your invention idea and apply for a patent, so you can market your idea.

In this article you will find information on the following:

The Patent Process

Patent Research

Market Research

Cost to Patent an Invention

Filing a Patent Application

What to Expect Next

Provisional Patents

International Patents

The Patent Process

IT STARTS TO GET COMPLICATED BUT YOU CAN HANDLE IT…

Define your idea. You can do this by making drawings, models, and by writing a description of your invention. Writing a detailed description is an essential part of the process. It will help you to think through all of the details and possible variations for your invention. When it comes time to file your patent application, you will need to provide a written description, the documents you produce right now will be very helpful.

Get started by answering the following questions. Again, many of these will have to be answered for the patent office and in your future marketing plans.

  • Does my idea solve a problem?
  • Does my invention work?
  • Is my invention unique?
  • How is it different from other products on the market?
  • How much money do I need to make my invention reality?
  • Would an investor be interested in my invention?
  • Who is likely to buy my product or my invention?
  • What kind of inventions can be patented?
Patent Research is important to getting a patent.

There are three types of patents. Your invention must fit into one of these categories:

Utility Patent

Utility patents are granted for a process (for example a new accounting system), a machine (perhaps a new bottling machine), an article of manufacture (think of the iPhone), composition of matter (new drugs come under this category). Utility patents are also granted for improvements to any of the above listed products and even business methods surrounding those products.

Design Patent

Design patents are granted for the ornamental look and design of an article of manufacture.  A design patent can protect a two or three dimensional design of a product or of parts of a product.  It is important to note that it will not protect the technical aspects of a product.  Design patents are typically chosen for furniture, clothing and even computer icons.

Plant Patent

Plant patents can be granted for a new asexually reproduced plant, say a new type of rose.  In order to obtain the patent, the plant must meet certain criteria.  The plant must be unique and able to reproduce without seeds.  It can not be discovered in the “wild’.   Interestingly enough, the a plant patent can be obtained even if its discovered on another’s property.

FIRST STEPS TO HOW TO PATENT AN IDEA

No matter which kind of patent your invention fits best, in order to receive a patent your invention must be useful, cannot be offensive, and needs to be new and non-obvious. The invention application also has to meet high quality standards and be properly described in clear terms by the inventor.

Not every idea can be patented. Some ideas, like artistic works, including writing and music, require a copyright and that is a slightly different process from patents. You also cannot patent laws of nature or physical phenomena.

Now you can decide what kind of patent you should apply for.

You can apply for a utility patent is your product offers a defined benefit to society. It must be clear exactly what the invention is and what the benefit is. A utility patent will last for 20 years from the day it is granted. You may apply for a design patent if you have a new design, or an improved design for a product or process. It need not affect how the original product functions. It can be as simple as a new color or design pattern. Design patents last for 14 years. Plant patents are applicable only to plants, and only to asexual plants that are reproduced through grafts and cuttings. Plant patents last for 20 years.

Learn how to conduct a patent search.
Learn the difference between a patent agent and a patent attorney.

PATENT SEARCH AND PRIOR ART RESEARCH

Now you need to do some research in order to file a patent application for your invention. Answer the following questions to determine if your invention idea can be patented, if it will be financially viable, and learn how much it will cost to patent your invention idea.

Is your invention or idea eligible for a patent? Your idea must be unique. In other words, it has to be one of a kind. But, patents are also quite specific. For example, there may be a patent for a hammer with a six inch handle, but not one for an eight inch handle such as you suggest. If there is a specific purpose that is met better by the longer handle, your idea may well be patentable. The criteria is that you idea must be new, for example a hammer with a longer handle. It must be non-obvious, and that simply means that your purpose needs to be specific and original. And of course, it must be useful. The patent office will frown on suggestions to use a hammer as a paperweight or doorstop.

Who Can File a Patent?The inventor or inventors are the only people eligible to file for a patent. You cannot buy the idea from a friend and then patent it, although you friend may patent an invention and then sell the patent to you.

Do you need to do a patent search? Absolutely. One key to getting your patent approved is to make sure that it doesn’t infringe on any other existing patents. Many patents are subtle adaptations of previous ideas or processes. There are very few invention ideas that are so unique that there has never been anything like them ever imagined or seen by other people. Even Steve Jobs iPhone was an adaptation of an invention that was over a hundred years old.

You must do a patent search to become familiar with prior art, that means other patents that have been issued in the past. Then you can properly prepare your patent to meet the criteria for originality.

Do you need a patent attorney or a patent agent? What’s the difference?

The short answer to the first question is, no. Any inventor can file their own patent application.

However, the patent application process is fairly complex, and very time-consuming. In the best-case scenario, it takes several years to obtain a legal patent. In this field, mistakes don’t cost days or months, they cost years. So you may very well want to have someone represent you in preparation and presentation of this very important document. You can seek help from a patent agent or a patent attorney.

So what’s the difference?

First of all, in the United States, all patent agents and patent attorneys must be registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The USPTO has ensured that they have the correct qualifications, adhere to best practices, and have passed a difficult exam. Both are legally qualified to represent clients in applying for patents with the USPTO.

A patent agent has at least a bachelor’s degree in science or engineering. He or she has also passed the test required by the USPTO, and must be in good standing.

A patent attorney has all of the qualifications of a patent agent, including having passed the test. Patent attorneys have also passed the bar exam and can practice as lawyers, as well.

MARKET RESEARCH

After learning a bit about how to patent an idea, the next aspect of your research will help you decide if your patented invention has commercial potential. Make no mistake, getting a patent is a long and difficult process. You want to be sure that all of this effort has at least a chance of financial gain at the end.

There are many aspects that you need to look at. First of all, you need to decide who your best customer is, and how many of them there are. Ideally, you want a lot of people who may be interested, or a small group who will be extremely interested.

Think about it this way. A new product to clean floors is potentially useful to almost everyone. An invention idea like this can have huge upside potential, but it can be difficult to break into markets that are national in scale. On the other hand, a new invention for stock car racing will appeal to a much smaller group, but if it is truly effective, every stock car driver will absolutely have to have it to be competitive.

There are many highly successful products, that have made their inventors financially comfortable, in both of these kinds of markets. The important point is that you want to know early in the process which kind of invention you have. It will affect your potential earnings and marketing plans.

How to file a patent with the USPTO.
Learn where to send your patent documents.

FILING A PATENT APPLICATION

How do you file a patent application? For a United States patent, all patents are filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.The application process is quite specific and detailed. You can seek the help of a professional patent agent or patent attorney, or alternatively you can file on your own.

For most patents, an attorney or an agent can do an equally good job. The important factor is to be sure that whomever you choose to represent you is registered and in good standing with the USPTO. Only those attorneys and agents who are registered are legally allowed to prepare your documents and assist you in applying for a patent.

A registered patent agent or attorney can be a great help in filing your patent application. They have a thorough understanding of the law and the process, and can often help you to file your patent much more quickly and with a greater chance of success without delays.

Prepare your patent application yourself. Patent filing is a very specialized field in which experience can save time and money. However, many inventors prefer to file their own applications, even if it may be time-consuming and more expensive than simply paying the filing fee. Anyone can file their own application with the Director of the USPTO. Applications can be filed by mail or online, and there is some cost savings by filing online.

All patent applications require the following:

  • Application transmittal form
  • Fee transmittal form, a listing of the current fees can be found at the USPTO website. If your patent is approved, the additional fees for issuance and maintenance will be applied as they become due.Application data sheet
  • Specification sheet, which is a written document that describes your invention. This must describe your claims of what is new or unique about your invention or process. If there is a prior patented invention that is similar, this document must explain how your invention has built upon and improved that invention, or changed that invention. All inventors involved in this patent must be listed on the specification sheet. It must include all of the following:
  • A Cover Sheet with the title of the invention on it
  • Cross references to other related patented inventions
  • Disclosures of federally sponsored research and development
  • Names of all legally contributing inventors for joint research projects
  • Appendix submitted on an external CD, with a “Sequence Listing” for easy reference
  • An explanation of the origin and background of the invention
  • Abstract of the invention, short form
  • Description of all drawings and diagrams provided
  • Abstract of the disclosure
  • Drawings
  • Oath or declaration that the invention is your original invention

In addition, it must be notarized or certified by a legal authority.

All of these documents need to be written in English and presented in specified dimensions. The documents can be in either .doc or PDF format. Drawings must be in PDF. Documents also require one-inch margins on the left and ¾-inch on right, top, and bottom. Also, your documents must be at 1.5 or double spaced. Make sure you have followed these directions precisely, because the USPTO will not accept documents that do not conform to their stated specifications.

Your documents must be present in one packet at the same time. Once you have done this, you will receive an application number and a filing date. The filing date is the day the USPTO receives the document packet, not the day you mailed it.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO PATENT AN INVENTION?

This varies almost as much as the potential gains from an investment idea can vary. Some inventors feel qualified to prepare and present their ideas on their own. This may be possible because of the nature of their idea, or because they have prior experience in the invention or legal field. For this group, they may be able to prepare, present and patent their idea for a few thousand dollars and a lot of sweat equity.

More typically, inventors seek out the help of a patent attorney or patent agent. Most of these professionals bill by the hour, generally at rates of more than $100 per hour. Patents can take hundreds of hours to prepare and file. It can be difficult even for an experienced attorney or agent to estimate how much time it will take to successfully prepare and prosecute a patent. This is primarily because every invention idea is new and uncharted territory. It is not unusual for the patent prosecution to $50,000, $100,000 or more. On the other hand, some companies which specialize in patents and have developed procedures to make the process more efficient can offer the same services for a fraction of the cost, sometimes for as little as $10,000 with the same excellent results.

Your patent has been filed, what's next?

WHAT TO EXPECT NEXT

The USPTO will conduct a patent search to be sure there are no duplicates of your invention or conflicting patents.The time it takes to do this varies greatly, depending upon the particular invention and the workload of the patent officers who have been assigned your invention. There is no guarantee that you will be issued a patent.

It is very common for the patent examiner to ask for clarification and more details about your invention. They may also ask you to narrow the scope of your invention for approval.

There is a period of time when your invention may be granted “patent pending” status. At this time you may market or sell your invention rights to others.

When your application is approved, you must pay approval fees. You will be notified with a Notice of Allowances and Fee(s). You must pay these fees within three months of the notice in order to protect your invention.

Once fees are paid, you will be issued your patent in a timely manner. This is not instantaneous and again varies on printing schedules and workload of the necessary offices.

This is the patent application process in the United States. In the following, we will cover the types of patents you can apply for.

PROVISIONAL PATENT

The USPTO offers provisional and non-provisional patents.

Many inventors opt for an initial filing for a provisional patent. The advantage of filing for a provisional patent is that it is less expensive and may be obtained a bit more quickly. Once a provisional patent is approved and you have “patent pending” status, your invention idea will be protected, provided you maintain it by following the procedure and paying the appropriate fees as they come due. The important point is that your invention is protected from this day forward. You may market a patent pending invention, or sell it, or transfer it to your heirs.

The downside of a provisional patent is that protects your invention for one year only. Before the year is up, you must convert your provisional patent to a non-provisional patent and pay the required fees.

A non-provisional patent is enforceable for a much longer time period. If you have a provisional patent, you must file for a provisional patent within one year, in order to protect your patent rights. The non-provisional patent may protect your invention for up to 20 years, depending on the specifics of your invention.

To maintain your patent rights, additional fees are required during the life of the patent. Fees are due at 3 ½, 7 ½ and 11 ½ years from the date the patent is granted.

Learn how to file your patent.

PATENTS BEYOND THE UNITED STATES

Almost all countries have a patent protection system that applies within their own borders. For instance, you can file for patent protection in Sweden, France, Brazil, China, or many other individual countries.

There are also patents that cover regions, such as an EU patent which offers protection in most countries in the European Union.

The Patent Cooperation Treaty, PCT, which is operated by the World International Patent Organization, WIPO, offers the widest patent protection available in the world. Almost all countries have agreed to abide by and honor the PCT. Currently 148 countries participate in the PCT.

Patent applications outside of the United States may differ slightly in the particular details of the application process. Many countries require the documents to be presented in the language of that country. Although the details may differ, almost all patent agencies worldwide require drawings and specification sheets, and a thorough complete patent search.