A patent is a right granted to an inventor by the Congress of the United States. This right gives the inventor the sole right to make, sell or use the invention for a specified period of time. Obtaining a patent is fairly easy, but there are things that are easy to overlook, especially if you have never filed before. If you are an inventor or business owner, the information below will show you the correct way to obtain a patent from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Starting the Application Process
Before you file a patent application, you should be sure that your invention is eligible. It is also important to note that you cannot patent a natural law, idea or an easily observable fact. In order to receive a patent, your invention must be:
- Useful – Your invention serves a practical and easily observable purpose.
- Non-Obvious – If a person of notable skill in your particular area of invention was charged with judging the differences between your invention and another patent, he or she would not consider those differences to be obvious.
- Novel – No one else holds a patent on your invention, and the idea has not been implemented in the past. In order to receive a patent, you must first file an application with the USPTO. This application will request basic information about your invention, but it will also ask more complex questions regarding legal issues. For this reason, many inventors allow attorneys to prepare the documents for them.
Types of Applications
You can use one of two types of patent applications. The first type is called a non-provisional application. It includes the following information:
- A written document containing a description of the invention, as well as your claim and an oath or declaration
- A drawing of the invention
- Filing, examination and search fees
The applicant should determine if small entity status is an appropriate classification before making a claim to an invention. If so, he or she will be required to pay a small entity fee, which will change once a year in October. You can find a detailed fee schedule on the USPTO website.
Provisional applications are designed as a lower-cost alternative to non-provisional applications, and they do not require a claim or oath. They provide inventors with the means to establish an early effective filing date in an application. They also permit inventors to use the term “Patent Pending” in connection with their products. This particular type of application cannot be filed for design inventions.
Filing Dates and Publication
The date that USPTO receives a written description and drawing of your invention will be considered your filing date. To complete the application, you should include the filing fee and a cover sheet that specifies that the application is indeed a provisional application. After this occurs, you will have up to a year to file a non-provisional application. If the non-provisional application is approved, the claim will receive the benefit of the filing date of the provisional application.
According to the American Inventors Protection Act of 1999, any utility or plant application filed on or after November 29, 2000 must be published. An inventor can request otherwise, but only if the invention has not been the subject of an application filed in a foreign country that recognizes the Patent Cooperation Treaty. For all other inventors, publication will occur at the end of an 18-month period following the earliest effective filing date (or priority date) claimed by an application. After publication, any member of the general public may access the details of your patent application.
Filing a patent application is the only way to prevent others from claiming your invention as their own. If you have a novel idea or you are in the process of inventing a product, you should start the application process as soon as possible.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.