Your Invention is Important, but You Need a Patent to Get Started
Disclaimer: Please proceed with caution when applying for a patent and at your own risk. It is highly recommended that you seek the advice of a patent expert to ensure that all steps are followed and your patent is requested in the proper manner.
So, you have an idea for a revolutionary new invention never before seen by the human eye? Your first instinct might be to build a prototype and get it to the market so you can make those big bucks. Hold on, there are steps to be taken first. Applying for a patent is essential and if you are applying for a patent in the United States, there are steps that need to be followed to ensure the idea and any subsequent ideas are in fact owned by you, the inventor.
Why Do You Need a Patent?
Inventions can change the world and it is through average, everyday people that many inventions come to light. Millionaires and billionaires have been made from seemingly simple ideas throughout the years. However, where there is an idea for an invention, there is also, lurking in the shadows, someone willing to steal that idea from the original inventor.
Although this may seem wrong to most people, large corporations, and even average people looking for a quick profit, have been known to snake an invention from an unsuspecting, over-trusting individual. A patent provides a level of protection. It shows the world that the idea or invention is solely yours and cannot be simply taken away. Patents can be sold by the patent holder, but if done correctly, cannot be stolen, so a patent is the best way to secure your idea.
What Types of Patents Are Available in the United States?
You may be under the impression that patents in the US are the same across the board. However, the United States categorises patents depending on the needs of the patent holder. There are actually 3 different types of patents in the US to choose from, and which one you choose will determine how your idea is marketed and what is secured about your invention.
Utility Patents – The most common type of patents in the United States is a Utility Patent. This is a patent on inventions featuring specific functions. For example, software patent is categorised as a utility patent as they provide a specific technological function. These patents are available for a period of 20 years, but only if the patent holder keeps up with maintenance fee for the length of the patent.
Design Patents – Valid for a period of 14 years, a design patent is a patent given to non-functioning parts of an invention. Aesthetic features of the item cannot be duplicated if this patent is held.
Plant Patents – Horticulture has become huge in the United States and new plants are being discovered, cultivated, and patented each year. A plant patent is a less common patent in the US, but still a valid one.
Research Your Idea
The first step in the patent process falls on the potential patent holder. It is up to you to determine the validity of your new invention by researching if it has previously existed and if there is a patent held on the idea or design of the invention. Thankfully, most of your research can be done through a simple Google Patent Search or through public records available online from the patent office. In the event you do not want to research the patent yourself, there are agencies that will perform the task for a fee and often these are better options for first time appliers. This step simply keeps an inventor from wasting valuable time.
The patent process in the United States is not just a piece of paper filed with your local patent office. The application itself has a few parts you will want to know about. Each part has its own set of rules to follow and an inventor should never skimp on information needed for the patent process. In this instance, it is better to provide too much information as opposed to too little to keep your patent application from being delayed.
Specification – The specification is where you provide details about your invention with detailed instructions provided on the innerworkings of the device. Ensure that details are provided enough to where a person of average intelligence can understand your invention in its entirety.
Abstract – This part of the application may seem non-essential, but the abstract is a significant part. You can think of it as the essence of your invention. The abstract contains basic information about the invention and is no more than a paragraph in length.
Background Information – For the background information you will have to provide a description of what problem your invention solves or why the world needs your invention.
Summary – This is basically a brief description of what your invention does and how it is to be used.
Detailed Description – Details are important during the patent application process and the detailed description of your invention should include how the invention is constructed, the field it belongs in and the industrial significance of the invention.
Conclusion – During your conclusion you will sum up your invention and provide the advantages it brings to its target audience.
Drawings – One of the most important parts of your patent application is the drawings provided. These drawings are best left to a patent illustrator (preferably in a Computer Aided Design software), but if you are an artist yourself, you can possibly do it on your own. Notes on the drawings are permitted as well and are actually encouraged to ensure you get your invention’s point across.
Claims – This is the part of the patent process that is best left up to a patent lawyer. The claims part of the application is where you show what parts of your invention you want protected by the patent. Without this important piece, a company could potentially steal part of your invention without actually violating the terms of the patent, so invest heavily in the claims part of the application with the help of a lawyer.
What Else is to Be Sent with the Application?
Along with your application and its many parts, you will have to include any filing fees associated. These fees can be looked up with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Additionally, you will want to include a patent application declaration, basically declaring that you are the author of the invention and an information disclosure statement for extra relevance on your claim. You can also choose to submit a non-publication request in the event you do not want your invention published 18 months after your patent has been established.
Try, Try Again
One problem that potential patent holders can run into is a rejection of their patent. Do not despair. It is not the end of the road. The United States Patent Office is remarkably busy and regularly deny requests on the first go around of applying. Most often, your application will be denied if you did not procure the assistance of a patent lawyer.
Some people try to save money by not hiring a patent lawyer for the process. The thought is that all information is available online, so why do I need additional help? Truthfully, a patent lawyer is a viable expense for the process. They ensure that the process is completed correctly and understand patent law better than any average citizen. In the event that you do use a patent lawyer and are still denied, the lawyer is vital for reaching the next step and reapplying for your patent.
Does it Cost a Lot of Money to File for a Patent in the US?
Yes, it does, and the fees may scare you off. Attorney fees can start at $5,000 depending on the level of complexity of your invention. Research fees can be from $1,000 to $3,000 and the filing fee with the patent office is anywhere from $140 to $280.
Those numbers can be frightening, especially for a person new to the patent process, but as the old saying goes, “It takes money to make money.” The need for a patent is paramount in the world we live in today. Ideas are just an idea and subject to theft until they are laid out plain and in writing by the United States Patent Office. Remember, you could be sitting on a billion-dollar idea, but if you do not follow the patent process, you can lose it all. Those costs do not seem so large when pitted against the potential to make billions and the fact that you are learning along the way.
Your idea is important and could help many people, but it all starts with a legally binding patent. Find a patent lawyer and get started on your road to your dreams today.