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.