The patent application is a lengthy and highly complex procedure. You need to research your patent, draft your application, and should learn about the multiple steps involved in patenting an idea.
This article will discuss the steps involved and businesses that can help you ease the process.
What is a Patent?
A patent is a monopolistic right granted by a government authority to inventors or creators of products or ideas. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) processes and grants patent requests in the United States.
Once USPTO grants a patent, the holder can use or sell that invention commercially. It also protects the inventors from excluding others from using, selling, offering, or importing those products or ideas.
There could be a specific time period till when the patent is valid; after that, patent holders forgo their right to that invention. Generally, a patent is granted for 20 years which in some circumstances can be extended; after that, the invention hits the public domain, where anyone can use or sell that without breaking the terms of the patent. If the patent holders wish, they can sell the patent to others who will be the new owners.
Types of patent
Following are four different types of Patents:
#1. Utility Patent
It is the most common patent and is issued for inventions of a process, a machine, an article of manufacture, a composition of matter (e.g., a chemical compound), or a useful improvement of any of these. Utility patents are granted for 20 years from the date of filing.
Patent holders need to pay the maintenance fees for this patent. The main criteria to be eligible to get this utility patent is that the invention or idea must be newly discovered and useful.
Here are the categories that are being covered by this patent-
Process – Like software instructs a computer to perform functions in a new way, a process is something that executes some action originally. It is an act or method of doing primarily technical or industrial processes.
Machine – An invention is considered a machine when it performs some useful tasks, such as a computer or an air conditioner.
Manufacture – These products are a piece of equipment that is being created or manufactured by the inventor.
Composition of Matter – These inventions are unique chemical compounds or elements.
Improvement – When an inventor improves the usability of any process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, that is considered an improvement.
A utility patent is one of the most expensive patent types. You can expect around a two-year waiting period after applying for this patent.
#2. Provisional Patent
A provisional patent is a less formal type that needs to be examined and filled when the application belongs to either a Utility or Plant patent application. It is generally used for documenting the invention date for filing the subsequent patent application.
If the patent holder doesn’t apply for a formal utility patent within a year, they will lose the filing date, and the invention will enter the public domain.
#3. Design Patent
A design patent is filed for ornamental design or for the design done on some things that are manufactured. This patent is valid for 15 years, and the patent holders don’t need to pay any maintenance fee, making it less expensive than a utility patent.
#4. Plant Patent
Plant patents are issued for inventing new kinds of plants by cutting or by any other asexual means, i.e., reproduced by other than seeds like grafting or rooting of cuttings. Plant patents are valid for 20 years, and the patent holder doesn’t need to pay the maintenance fee for this patent.
Eligibility for filing a patent
Under U.S. Patent Law, an invention is eligible for filing a patent only if it meets the below criteria-
The invention needs to be statutory (subject matter eligibility)
An invention is eligible for a patent if the subject matter is patentable. According to the U.S. Patent Act, the subject matters eligible for patenting are – processes, machines, articles of manufacture, and compositions of matters. Inventions that are not statutory can’t be patented.
As per the law, any product like toys, medical devices, pharmaceutical drugs, appliances, or any process like manufacturing processes or industrial methods can be patented.
But any artistic creation, mathematical algorithm, naturally occurring, abstract, or mental concept can not be patented. Any idea or suggestion can not be patented, and the inventors must have proper concrete means of implementing their idea to get the patent.
The innovation should be novel
The invention must be new and not used or sold more than a year before the date of filing the patent application publicly. If not filing for a patent application within the 1st year of public disclosure, the inventor can avoid facing the statutory bar to obtaining the patent.
Before filing the application, inventors should explore the same or highly similar inventions that got patented earlier.
A patent examiner will examine the same, and if the product lacks novelty, the patent can be rejected. For this reason, if the inventor wishes to disclose the invention to someone, a confidentiality agreement should be signed before that.
The innovation should be useful
Any practical invention that is beneficial to use and performs the desired piece of work in the real world meets this criterion. This requirement is crucial when it comes to patenting pharmaceutical drugs and chemical elements or compounds.
Non Obvious requirement
An invention is considered ‘nonobvious’ when the improvement is marked as a surprising development by someone skilled in the field. Any simple changes to the prior product or process can not be patented.
The examiner will check earlier patent applications of similar inventions and find matches. The application will be rejected if the examiner matches the features with any single patent.
They will also attempt to find similarities in combining two or more patent applications. If he considers similar features in the combination of those earlier patents, he will generally reject the application marking it as an ‘obvious’ invention.
Patenting an Idea or Invention
A patent application for a patented idea or invention will be filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
The process is known as Patent prosecution, and the following are its steps:
An accurate, crisp, well-written specification and description with a drawing(if needed) of the product or process with a confident claim of the inventors that they are the pioneer of the invention should be there in the patent application.
A comprehensive patent search should be done before applying; retaining a patent attorney or agent could be helpful.
If the inventor lacks some requirements for filing a patent, they can avail of the provisional patent, which will give protection to the idea for a year, and till that time, the investor needs to get appropriate data ready for filing the patent.
How much does it cost to patent an Idea?
A patent attorney usually charges between $8000 to $10,000, but the cost can be higher, and you can end up paying $15,000 to $20,000 in most cases.
Cost of a Utility Patent
The cost for the utility patent usually ranges between $8000 to $15,000. Simple mechanical inventions cost less, around $8000 to $10,000; medical devices and software may go up to around $14,000.
For complex inventions, it may take around $20,000 investment. Along with this inventor has to bear the Government filing fees, which for individuals or small companies currently stand at around $800.
Cost of Design Patent
Depending on the representations, design patent costs vary between $1,500 to $3,000. Government filing fees are to be paid, which are $760 for large entities, $380 for small entities, and $190 for micro-entities.
Cost of Plant Patent
The total cost of filing a Plant Patent ranges between $5,000 to $8,000.
Before filing a patent, you should be as familiar with the whole process. Here is the step-by-step approach to filing a patent–
Making sure the Idea is Patentable
The invention is required to belong to one of these categories- processes, machines, manufacture, compositions of matter, and improvements. Being in one of these categories, the invention should be novel, nonobvious, and useful to the real world to get a patent finally.
Any abstract idea, a piece of the formula that ain’t tied to any process or natural discovery, can’t be patented.
Any business procedure, machine, electronics, sporting goods, fabric and fabric design, medicines, computer hardware, software that provides “useful, concrete and tangible” outcomes, man-made bacteria, etc., can be patented.
Determine Type of Patent you need
Decide whether you need a Utility, Design, or Plant patent and know what each offers. Estimate how much money you need to invest into getting your idea patented. You can check the USPTO Fee Schedule to get an assumption of the cost. Also, estimate how much time it may take to receive your first letter from the USPTO Office.
Visit USPTO Patent Application Initiatives Timeline for events and initiatives that are available to applicants to advance the process from one phase to the next.
If you need international protection, consider checking Patent Cooperation Treaty, International Patent Cooperation, and the detailed guide published by USPTO before proceeding with your application. Utility and Plant patent applicants can choose to fill out a provisional patent application to get a quick and inexpensive patent.
Hire a Patent Attorney
Getting a patent is a long and complicated process that requires knowledge of patent law and rules, office practice and procedures, and the scientific and technical matters involved in patenting the idea.
Even after doing hard work for around two years, it is not sure that you’ll receive adequate protection for your invention. So, for new applicants or those who are not skilled enough in these things, it is better to hire a patent attorney to help you.
Businesses like LegalZoom, Questel, and Thoughts to Paper may help you. Only registered patent attorneys, agents, and individuals granted limited recognition are eligible to represent patent applications before USPTO.
To find your patent attorney, you can also search USPTO for such registered patent agents. If you are an investor or applying for a patent application for your small business having small resources, you may be eligible for Nationwide Pro Bono Program to receive free attorney representation.
However, if you do not wish to get assistance and do it on your own, consider going through USPTO Pro Se Program to make informed decisions in patenting your idea.
Note Everything; Make a Prototype
It is always wise to keep a backup of everything as the process is long and takes a lot of effort. Maintaining a note of all the processes, mistakes, and corrections may help this journey. Having a sketch of your invention or making a prototype also may be useful for giving a final touch before applying and explaining your product.
Submit Your Application
Check the USPTO Manual before filing your first application with all the required documents. Your formal application should be error-free, specifications loaded with an abstract, background, summary, detailed description, and your conclusion, including the ramifications and scope.
If the application is incomplete, you will receive a letter from the USPTO office and will be given a time period to complete and submit it again, which will cost you some extra bucks. If the application is marked as complete, an examiner will be assigned to examine the application.
If the examiner declines the application, they will explain the reasons, and you can argue all the objections.
Your application could only be abandoned if you are able to appear with appropriate corrections within the given time. If your application is rejected twice, you can appeal to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board.
If the examiner finds that your application is complete and meets all the requirements, you will receive a Notice of Allowance.
Businesses to help you file Patents
#1. Legal Zoom
Legal Zoom is an online patent registration company that ensures you get a patent filed on time without hassle. It helps you secure a priority patent filing day so you don’t miss a chance to patent your invention or idea.
The filing process with Legal Zoom is simple, you just need to answer a few questions, help the illustrator create technical drawings, and you are good to go. They offer a 60-day money-back guarantee if you are unsatisfied with their service.
Questel is one of the world’s most preferred companies for international patent filing. They offer competitive pricing, patent filing in all languages, translations, and full transparency.
Most of their customers are from fortune 500. Some of the services they offer are a dedicated foreign filing portal, specialized translations, seamless end-to-end solutions, and more.
#3. Thoughts To Paper
Thoughts To Paper is a patent application company helping you file provisional, design, and utility patents. The process of filing a patent with the company includes- contacting the company, reviewing your idea/invention by a patent agent or attorney, requesting a patent search report, and finally filing the patent.
How to file a patent on my own?
To file a patent application for yourself, you must submit it online using the USPTO’s web portal. You can also submit an offline paper application, which requires an additional fee. While doing it yourself, you must be careful, as even small grammatical errors can dramatically compromise your patent value.
Why should you hire a patent attorney?
You should hire a patent attorney to help you with the following: Complicated patent drafting and filing process In-depth investigation regarding acquiring a patent Patent protection and acceptance in case it gets rejected
The patent application needs technical and legal expertise; even a small mistake can compromise your patent value. The best way is to find an excellent company to help and guide you through the process.
You can review the list of businesses mentioned in the article and select one that fits your requirement and budget. These businesses can help you enormously through your patent application process.
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