You have just created a brand new gadget, it’s innovative, extremely useful and everybody is dying for one. But before you can turn your new invention into millions of dollars, you need to protect it from being stolen by other would be millionaires. To do this you need a patent. But wait, you don’t have the small fortune that it sometimes takes to patent a new invention.
While there is very little you can do about the filing fees that must be paid in order to patent a new invention, you can save thousands of dollars in attorney fees by applying for a patent yourself.
While the patent process is not for the faint-of-heart, in most cases it it highly possible to go it alone. In fact, it is a little known truth that patent examiners at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) are required by federal law to assist individuals who are applying on their own. This article discusses the basic steps you need to take to patent a new invention.
Patent A New Invention Basics
1) Determine if your New Invention is Eligible for a Patent
To be eligible for a patent an invention must be novel. This means that it must be new and something that has not been known before. It must also be more than just an obvious improvement on what existed before, it must result from a notably inventive process. Finally, it must be able to be manufactured and do what you claim it does.
2) Perform a Patent Search
In order to make sure that your invention is new and has not been known before, you need to perform a patent search. A patent search is a search of all earlier developments in your field. This means a search of prior patents, domestic and foreign, as well as published literature, such as scientific and technical journals.
You can perform an online search of patent libraries yourself or employ a professional to do the searching for you. Either way, your application will need to address how your invention differs from any similar invention that comes up in your patent search.
3) Determine Which Kind of Patent Your Invention Requires
There are three categories of patents, utility patents, design patents and plant patents. Utility patents protect the functional aspects of an article, while design patents only protect an article’s aesthetic features. Design patents are cheaper and much easier to obtain than utility patents. However, utility patents offer much broader protection for your invention. Plant patents are the third category of patents and are issued for new asexually reproduced plant species.
4) Determine How You Want to File
There are three options for filing a patent application. You can file a provisional patent application, a non-provisional application or an international application.
Provisional applications are valid for 12 months and are easier and cheaper to obtain. However, you must file a non-provisional application within 12 month of filing your provisional application or risk loosing your filing date and possibly the chance to ever receive a patent on your invention.
A non-provisional patent application is the basic, full-blown patent application for new inventions in the United States and will grant the applicant 14 – 20 years of protection, depending on the type of patent granted and the filing date.
An international patent may be applied for via the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), which allows an applicant to receive patent protection in numerous countries by filing a single application, at a single patent office. Not only is this convenient, but it can save an applicant huge amounts of time and money.
5) File your application with the USPTO
Once you have prepared your application in the manner required by USPTO, including a description of your invention and a “claims section”, you are ready to submit your application. You may submit your application, along with the appropriate filing fee(s), through the mail or electronically through the USPTO’s electronic filing system (EFS). Filing your application via EFS is considerably cheaper than paper filings and offers various other advantages.
Depending on the kind of application and the technology involved in your invention, it may take one to three years for your patent to be granted. Once it is granted, you will have the right to prevent others from making, using, selling or importing your invention, while you alone enjoy the exclusive right to profit from it.
Patent protection is often necessary to protect a new invention from being appropriated by others before you can exploit its financial possibilities. Though not for everyone, it is possible to save a considerable amount of money in legal fees by patenting your invention on your own. This article provides only basic information on how to patent a new invention. For more detailed instructions see the USPTO website.