If you have a groundbreaking invention, you’ll need to patent it. However, the world of patenting can be a confusing and daunting one. As a seasoned expert with a track record of securing patents, I am here to guide you.
In this article, I’ll show you how to patent an invention so that you can protect it from infringement.
How to Patent an Invention
There are certain steps you need to take to patent an invention. You will need to:
- Record every step of the invention process with descriptions and diagrams, signing and dating each document of this record. You may also need to build a prototype.
- Ensure the invention qualifies for a patent. You must show the invention works and prove it is novel, with no examples of prior art.
- Conduct a detailed patent search for related inventions. You must prove how yours differs from others or improves upon them.
- Prepare and submit a Provisional Patent Pending (PPA) application, or a regular Patent Application (RPA) via the USPTO.
Keep a Detailed Record of an Invention
Securing a patent requires more than a mere concept; it necessitates proof of uniqueness. This can be achieved by documenting the creative journey, from initial thoughts to sketches, errors, and beyond.
Each page must be signed and dated, and if possible, have witnesses do the same, protected by NDAs. Ownership must be clearly outlined in contracts if collaborating with other inventors.
The patent application process is typically a time-consuming and expensive one. Therefore, you must prepare beforehand and determine whether your invention is eligible for a patent. After all, not all inventions or ideas can be patented.
You also need to find out whether your patent falls under:
- Utility patents: The invention must be “a new or improved and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter.”
- Design patents: The invention must be a novel, original, or ornamental design for “an article of manufacturer.”
For an invention to be patentable, it must meet the following requirements:
- Be novel and non-obvious
- The invention must not be too abstract
- It must not combine two obvious things
- The invention must have real-world use
- The patent’s use needs to be precisely specified and devoid of speculation
Finding out if your invention is new can be challenging. This is why you should hire a patent attorney who can help with the process and ensure everything goes as smoothly and quickly as possible.
Conduct a Patent Search
Conducting a patent search is the most crucial step to ensuring your invention is indeed novel. Ideally, this should be associated with developments already made in this sector.
To investigate earlier patents, you must search within the U.S. patent offices and, in some cases, other countries. Technical and scientific journals should also be researched. You can complete these searches in a few ways:
- With the help of a patent attorney like Goldstein Patent Law
- By contacting your local Patent and Trademark Resource Center
- Use the USPTO patent search online page
- Visit the USPTO Main STIC Library
Prepare And File a Patent Application
Once you have a detailed record of your invention and the process of developing it, you need to start the application, ideally with the aid of a patent attorney. You can apply for a provisional patent if you require additional time to prepare the application.
A provisional patent application (PPA) gives an invention a “patent pending” status. Doing so can attract potential investors early on and give the invention protection. This requires:
- A fee (from $65 for micro-entities up to $260 for larger corporations)
- A record explaining how to create and use the invention
- A comprehensive description of the invention
- An informal diagram or sketch of the invention (in some circumstances, this is optional, although highly recommended)
Within a year of filing a PPA, a Regular (non-provisional) patent application needs to be submitted. This grants the inventor exclusive rights to make, use, and sell their invention for a specified period, typically 20 years from the filing date, and provides legal protection against infringement.
How Long Does the Patent Application Process Take?
How long the patent application process takes can depend on various factors. For instance, if a patent office has a backlog of applications to examine, the inventor (applicant) will typically need to wait longer. On average, processing a patent application takes a minimum of one year. However, in July 2023, the First Office Action Reply on pending patents was 17.6 months.
What is the Cost of Obtaining a Patent?
The cost of obtaining a patent generally depends on the invention’s complexity. What you pay will be determined by whether you’re filing for small entities or for larger businesses; the latter being more expensive. Overall, the cost relies on:
- The number of claims on an application
- How the application is filed
- How many pages the application includes
- Patent attorney fees (these can range from around $8000 to $10000 or more)
In most circumstances, the applicant must have a budget of between $15,000 and $20,000 for a complete patent application.
Can You Patent an Improvement to an Existing Invention?
You can patent an improvement or modification to an existing invention if they meet the patentability requirements. To patent any modifications, however, you must meet some criteria:
- You need to be the inventor
- The improvements need to be novel or new
- The improvements need to be non-obvious
If the invention meets these requirements, examiners at a patent office are more likely to grant a patent.
While ideas alone are not patentable, a tangible invention can secure protection via a patent. Navigating the patent process usually comes with specific challenges, yet the protection will be worthwhile.
With persistence and expert legal guidance, turning your innovation into a granted patent can safeguard creation and open doors to opportunities.