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How to Apply for a Patent: A Step-by-Step Explained

Do you have an invention that could change the world? Have you designed a product so unique that you are worried others will take credit? If so, you need to begin the process of filing for a patent.

A patent gives you ownership over your inventions and designs, allowing you to profit and take credit. Unfortunately, the process of applying for a patent is not simple. Fortunately, we have compiled a step-by-step guide to assist you in filing for your patent.


Check Your Original Idea


The first step you need to take is checking that someone else has not already patented or publicized your idea. This can be done using the United States Trademark and Patent Office’s  databases as well as Google’s databases.

It would be best if you also double-checked that your idea is actually patentable. In order to satisfy the USPTO’s patentability requirements, you must create a new invention with some practical use. You should also avoid making detailed public disclosures of your invention before filing your patent application. However, if you have already made a public disclosure, you still have one year from the disclosure date to file your patent application without penalty.

This step must be executed swiftly, as the USPTO has a policy by which the first inventor to file a patent application for an inventive concept takes the rights. So, if you create a novel invention, you need to move ahead quickly, as someone could take it if they approach the USPTO before you do.


Shall I Get a Patent Attorney?


The whole process can be made a lot smoother if you contact an attorney who specializes and deals with patent law. The application and submission are complex, and an experienced individual can help you avoid any mistakes.

When searching for a patent attorney, prior experience is key. Check what successes they have had in the past. Getting a patent application is never easy, and they must be able to write down your idea in clear and concise terms while still including legalities and technical terminology.

If you do not have the money or do not wish to work with a patent attorney, it’s important to understand that they are not a requirement. As the inventor, you are allowed to prepare and file your own patent applications for your ideas. For more on this, check out the Patent Hacks Learning Center to learn how to prepare and file your own professional-grade patent applications for a fraction of the cost.


How to Apply for a Patent


There are three types of patents available, design, plant, and utility. Deciding on which you need is important and is dependent on the product or idea you have created.

Design is concerned with the aesthetics of an object. You are patenting its shape, ornamentation, and non-functional features. For example, sneakers or a car may have a design patent on their individual, unique look.

A utility patent, in contrast, is concerned with how an invention is constructed and used. It patents the functionality, the purpose it serves, and how it serves this. For example, a new tying mechanism on a sneaker or a unique suspension system on a car could fall under utility patents.

The final patent, a plant patent, is specially designed for botanists who have cultivated a new plant variety. It protects the owner’s rights for 20 years so that others may not reproduce the plant without the patent owners’ consent.


File a Provisional Application


A provisional patent acts as a placeholder by allowing you to hold your invention for a year. As well as adding an extra layer of protection, it is relatively cheap at only $130 for a small organization. This stops others with the same idea from jumping the queue ahead of you in the first to file system while you put together a stronger case for your full utility patent application.


Collating the Application


Applying for a patent is a multiple part process, and each of these can be easily rejected. You should use the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure to form a checklist. Make sure you have done everything the manual asks, then go over it again to double-check.

Your formal application will require an abstract, background, summary, and a detailed description. It will need to be rounded off with a conclusion called the “claims” that describes your patent’s scope, exactly what your invention “is,” and it’s purpose.

Mistakes at this point could cost time and money if they are minor. Anything larger, and you can lose a filing date or the ability to patent your product. This is the hardest part of the process. It is recommended you seek an experienced professional’s help if you are not confident in your ability to prepare your own patent applications.


Wait for a Response


Unfortunately, the application process is not immediate and can take between one to three years, depending on what you have submitted. One patent examiner deals with your application, and they will be your liaison throughout the process.

If you get any requests or questions from them during the process, it is in your best interest to reply quickly. In many instances, feedback might state that your patent is not original enough, that it is not the type of item that requires a patent, or that you have not fully explained it. Once submitted, you should prepare extra evidence of your invention’s patentability in case of these occurrences so that you can reply quickly and effectively.

If you have hired an attorney, the patent examiner will direct all correspondence to them. Ask your attorney to contact you as soon as possible should any new information arrive. Of course, it will pay to be proactive. It might be possible to arrange a meeting with the examiner through your lawyer to answer any of their questions.

If you are very unlucky and your patent is rejected twice, do not panic. You can still launch an appeal with the patent trial and appeal board.


Don’t Wait Around


Finally, don’t waste time waiting around. If your patent takes three years to come through, that is three years you could have been talking to possible buyers and manufacturers. This will allow you a faster entry into the market once it does arrive than if you had waited.

Do you need more help on how to apply for a patent? Patent Hacks has a large library of free resources to help you. If you enjoyed our guide, then you must read our article on protecting your intellectual property internationally. If you are interested in learning how to prepare and file your own patent applications, we recommend visiting the Patent Hacks Learning Center to learn everything you need to know!

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