There is something very rewarding about being an innovator or an inventor because you can take pride in the fact that you are bringing new products and ideas to the public sphere. A patent is a form of recognition for your innovation, and you should take advantage of that. This is why it is crucial to understand that, by filing for a patent, you are giving yourself (or your small business) a voice in the way your invention is used, and in return, you are protecting yourself from any loss of profits that may be associated with that invention.
What Is a Patent?
A patent is a formal declaration of ownership rights. Inventions as well as intellectual property within the U.S. are both protected under patents. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) states that a person who discovers a new and useful method, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or even an improvement thereon, can obtain a patent for his or her invention. According to the standard U.S. patent laws, patents are valid for 20 years after they are filed.
Inventors do not have permission from the USPTO to make a product. It grants them the exclusive right to control whether others may manufacture that product or not, rather than granting them the right to control it.
According to the USPTO, “the exclusive right is not granted to another in relation to making, using, offering for sale, selling, importing the invention, rather the exclusive right is granted to another in relation to making, using, offering for sale, selling, or importing the invention.”
There are three main categories that can be used to categorize patents:
In fact, there are three types of patents that can be granted by the United States Inventors Patent and Trademark Office under the present patent law.
- The term utility patent refers to a patent that is granted to anyone who invents or discovers a new invention (processes, machines, articles of manufacture, compositions of matter, and so on) that can be deemed useful, or who contributes to the development of these inventions.
- Patents relating to design are as their name implies, patents relating to aesthetics rather than utility. The United States Patent and Trademark Office defines a design patent as “an original, ornamental design for a manufactured product.”
- Plant patents: Believe it or not, there are plant patents available in the United States. United States Patent and Trademark Office grants plant patents to people who discover, invent, or asexually reproduce a distinctive and new variety of plant.
It is our goal to describe the process of obtaining a patent for a product or an invention in this article
I believe that it is of great importance that inventors who wish to apply for patents follow a process that is easy to follow, yet complex enough in order to distinguish between legitimate inventions and those that do not comply with government standards. By filing a patent application, you are requesting that the United States Government’s Patent and Trademark Office examines your invention in order to determine its patentability and compares it to existing products and ideas which are in commercial use.
It takes time for the patent application process to be completed. On average you will take 18 to 24 months to receive a decision on the patent application. Here are some important points you’ll want to keep in mind as you work toward your filing date for a patent:
- Make sure you check if your invention qualifies for a patent. If another person has already invented your product, you probably do not want to go through the entire patenting process. You can conduct a patent search on the USPTO’s website if you wish to do so. Many law firms specializing in patent law are also able to assist you with this patent search process, but a simple search may yield the information that you need.
- Keep a record of everything you do. Whenever possible, you should make sure that you document your invention’s existence as early as possible. You should show a chronology of your invention so you can demonstrate that you did not copy another inventor’s product. It’s possible that another inventor is working on the same invention at the same time as you, and you need to prove that you did not copy anything from another inventor. In addition to a dated journal, voice memos, sketches, photographs, and videos can all be used to memorialize your invention process. The more digital files you have with timestamps, the easier it will be for you to establish a legal claim to your invention.
- Prototypes should be made. If you want to patent an invention, the government will require a detailed description. An actual prototype is the best way to accomplish this, along with a detailed description of how it works.
- Spend money ahead of time. Getting a patent is not cheap. In most cases, the initial investment is approximately $5,000, but for more complicated inventions, it can be as high as $20,000. A part of this is due to government fees, but a part is also due to the fact that the government provides valuable services for a fee. The patent process is exhaustive, and many inventors prefer to have either a patent agent or registered patent attorney handle their idea throughout the patent process at the USPTO. A certain percentage of law firms exclusively focus on patent law, whereas full-service firms prefer to keep a patent lawyer on staff or on retainer.
- Provisional patents can be filed. Startups and solo practitioners may find the patent process overwhelming and prohibitively expensive. In order to protect your invention more quickly and for less money, a provisional patent is an option worth exploring. In addition to protecting your rights for a year, a provisional patent can be used while you gather the materials and finances to file a non-provisional patent application (your actual patent application). Provisional patents are labeled as “patent pending.” This means that even though the product isn’t yet fully patented, its intellectual property is protected.
- You should also consider getting an international patent if your invention requires one. The United States Patent Office protects your rights as an inventor within the country. As a provision of international trade agreements, many countries honor one another’s patents, however you may need an international patent to fully protect yourself. For first-time inventors who need help navigating the USPTO website, there are a number of resources available international patent law. If you would like to file a utility or design patent in another country, a dedicated patent firm can also provide you with legal advice.