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How Do Patents Work?

Do you have a great product or idea in mind? If so, you need to learn about patents.

A patent gives inventors federal protection that bars other parties from making, using, or selling a similar product or design. Before going through the patenting process, you must conduct comprehensive research to see if it’s worth the effort.

You must also consider other factors, such as hiring an attorney and what type of patent you need. Additionally, it would help if you learned about the proper filing procedures. Remember, you only have one year to file your patent application from the day you first offer your invention for sale or publicly disclose the invention.

This article will give you a greater insight into the patenting process.



Filing for a Patent With or Without an Attorney 


Before filing for a patent, decide if you should proceed with or without a patent attorney. Patenting an idea or product can be a tricky process without an attorney, especially if this is your first patent. However, if you choose an attorney, you’ll have to pay legal fees, which can be expensive (on average, $10,000+).

If you have the money, the investment can be worth it, as you’ll receive legal advice that will help you avoid errors. Additionally, attorneys will prepare and file your patent application on your behalf and champion your interests. Above all, they will do their best to ensure your design, product, or idea remains protected. However, it is important to understand that there is no guarantee that a patent attorney will earn you a patent.

Regardless of your circumstance, sound guidance is a necessary part of the process. However, not everyone has the money to spend on a patent attorney. That’s why Patent Hacks has created an affordable alternative that makes it possible for anyone to learn how to prepare and file their own patent applications. Additionally, as mandated by federal law, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will assign a professional examiner to help applicants that choose not to use an attorney.

With that, there are instances where involving an attorney is unnecessary.



Patent Types 


There are three types of patents to consider:

  • Design Patents: Use this patent option if you created an original design. The design must have distinct features that apply to a product, and the product must have a practical use. After protecting the design, you can manufacture the product with no fear of copycats.
  • Utility Patents: This patent will protect the physical creation and functionality of a new product, process, or composition of matter. It will also protect improvements of existing products.
  • Plant Patent: This is a special category that protects planters who grow a new type of plant.

Moreover, be aware of the difference between a patent vs. a provisional patent. Under a provisional patent, the USPTO won’t review your invention for patentability. Instead, a provisional patent functions as a placeholder for a full utility patent application.

In the meantime, the inventor can conduct additional research and finalize their invention before applying for a full patent. That said, the provisional patent will only protect the original design or concept. It won’t cover anything new that the applicant adds.

If you include new additions to your invention in your utility patent application, those new features will have separate protection dates. This is important to keep in mind when you transition from the provisional stage to the utility patent stage.



How to File a Patent


Whether you choose an attorney or not, the patent process breaks down as follows:

  1. Keep all records of your invention: Note every detail associated with your design or product. Document all your work in writing, and sign and date all the documents. Include any testing data if applicable.
  2. Find out if you qualify: Then, you must prove that your invention works. Additionally, the USPTO has specific guidelines on what can be patented. When it comes to patenting software, for example, you cannot patent the mathematical formula, but you can protect the formula’s application.
  3. Determine market competitiveness: If you have a product that’s going to market, ensure it’s worth the cost. The patent process could cost hundreds or thousands of dollars.
  4. Conduct comprehensive research: After, find out if another inventor has a similar product to yours. If so, ask yourself how your product or design improves upon earlier designs. In addition to reviewing previous patents, you may also need to review scientific and technical publications.
  5. File your application with the USPTO: At this stage, you can file a provisional patent or a full patent application. The full patent process will trigger an examination from the USPTO.



Patent Filing Fees 


If you choose a provisional patent, the fees start at $65 for micro-entities and $130 for smaller entities. That said, certain standards apply when it comes to determining your entity status.

For example, the USPTO considers a micro-entity as anyone who has filed fewer than four utility patents. When it comes to gross income, the applicant must have a median household income less than three times the median household income in the US. The most recent median income is around $180,000.

A smaller entity entails a single person or a small business. A small business must have no fewer than 500 workers. Plus, a smaller entity can be a non-profit organization or a university.

In terms of the overall cost, expenses (including legal fees) typically range between $5,000 and $17,000+. Based on national averages, you will likely pay around $10,000 when working with a patent attorney. At a maximum, most applicants usually don’t pay any more than $17,000.

However, if you are preparing and filing your own patent application, you can expect to pay a lot less. In this case, you will pay between $455 and $1,820, depending on your entity status. If you have filed less than 4 patent applications or your company employs less than 500 people, then your filing fees will typically remain under $900.

If you choose to work with an attorney, the most seasoned lawyers will charge anywhere from $200 to $400 an hour. The actual cost of a lawyer depends on how much time they need to complete the patent process.



Filing for Patents the Right Way


To file patents efficiently, make sure that you are prepared. The patent process is a lengthy one, so anything you can do to simplify and expedite the process is important.

Make sure you keep a detailed record of all the most important details of your invention(s) and those who worked on them. You can successfully file a patent on your own by keeping detailed records and conducting research. Regardless of how you ultimately choose to file, the more information you document now, the easier it will be to prepare and file your patent application.

Want to learn how to prepare and file your own patent applications? Check out the Patent Hacks Learning Center for everything you need to know!

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