Many inventors of a new product need to know how to file a patent but don’t know the steps. Have you invented something that solves a major problem suffered by the world today? Don’t give it away, you deserve to protect your invention with a patent. Be it a plant, new design or an invention having utility (function), you should protect it with a patent application. If your contribution is a cool business name you’re talking about a trademark. You can’t patent a book, a play or a song, either, you need a copyright.
Some folks understand a patent is a type of monopoly the government grants inventors for a set period of time, giving the inventor the exclusive right to manufacture, sell, use or otherwise benefit from. This is not the case. A patent is an agreement with the government wherein you disclose to the public what you have invented, and the government gives you the right to prevent others from making and selling your invention, for a period of 20 years from an effective filing date for a utility and 14 years from a grant date of a design patent.
Whether you attempt it yourself or work with a patent attorney or patent agent to help write and file your patent application at the USPTO, this is your asset, and you should get as familiar with the patent process as possible.
How to File a Patent in 8 Steps
- Search the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Google patents, World Intellectual Patent Office (WIPO) and other foreign patent databases for your invention. Search terms are critical, try all you can think of. Before investing several thousand dollars, or many hours of your time, use these search engines to make sure your idea hasn’t already been patented. Alternatively, you may be able to modify your invention to differentiate from what you find.
- Find a patent agent or patent attorney to help you. The application process can be made much simpler with the assistance of an experienced patent professional who can also help you avoid mistakes that could prove costly later on or render your patent worthless. You can write your patent yourself with help: patentrightsrestored.com.
- Determine what problem you are solving and a type of patent you need. Do you need a utility, design, or plant patent? This will guide the process you’ll use to apply for the patent.
- Consider filing a provisional patent application. This is helpful when patenting a technology that is very popular. The provisional establishes your filing date and allows 12 months to develop your market, manufacturing or make modification. U.S patent law changed in 2012 to a first-to-file system, not first-to-invent. You have to move fast, or you may lose out.
- Become a Registered eFiler at USPTO yourself, or have a patent agent file for you. You can file your patent application by mail (extra filing fee) or by fax, but the easiest way to do it online through the USPTO electronic filing system (EFS) website. Get your eFiler registration out of the way and read up on the most recent patent filing resources at the USPTO to make sure you know items need to be filed and in what format.
- Gather information for your formal application. You’re going to have to prepare a specification, which includes drawings, an abstract, background, summary, and a detailed description. In addition, you’re going to have to define the legal scope of your patent with a set of claims, and again, please hire an experienced patent agent or attorney, at least for this part, unless you’re 100% confident you have the skills and experience to handle this on your own.
- Complete and review your formal application. It takes one to three years, on average, for a patent application to be processed and examined. You don’t want it rejected for unnecessary errors or simple mistakes, so make sure you get it as close to exact as possible the first time.
- Do not hesitate to call your examiner and participate in the patent process. You’ll have one patent examiner assigned to your case. If you receive any correspondence or requests from them, respond as soon as you possibly can, there are always deadlines. Keep in mind that if you have an attorney or patent agent, the USPTO will communicate directly with them, so you’ll need to get your updates there. Consider arranging an interview to address any of the Examiner’s concerns. They are actually very helpful.
If your application is rejected twice, you can file an appeal with the Patent Trial and Appeal Board.