The ultimate guide to filing a patent
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Designing and launching your latest product is an exciting and fulfilling process. There is no doubt that you have devoted your heart and soul to making it perfectly, and you can’t wait to bring it to market and show the world your amazing and original creation.
However, before you get carried away with planning an extravagant product launch, you’ll need to think about filing for a patent – a task that can be a bit overwhelming.
What are the rules and regulations? How to start? Should I consult a lawyer? If your business is relatively small or you’re just getting started in entrepreneurship, these considerations are particularly daunting.
Filing for a patent certainly takes time, but I hope it is not as difficult as one might think. To help make the process as easy as possible, we’ve put together the basics and answered all your patent-related questions and concerns.
What is a patent?
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issues patents to protect an inventor’s product or design for a specified period.
Once you have obtained “ownership” of your invention, no other company or person may manufacture, import, sell, use, or benefit from that product or design in the United States.
Essentially, a patent grants you a monopoly over your invention by preventing others from stealing it and profiting from it.
Am I eligible for a patent?
You can file a patent application if:
- Your product or design is considered “new and useful”. This USPTO resource page has great tips on how to determine whether or not your invention is patentable.
- It is not yet publicly available.
- No other entity has already filed a patent for the same product or design. (You can check this through the USPTO search engine.)
Before you begin the process, do your research to determine if your product or idea has already been patented. You will also need to decide whether you want to file for a national or worldwide patent and what kind of patent you need.
Can I patent a trade name?
No. Patents are designed to protect products or designs only.
For a business name, you will need to apply for a trademark. Similarly, to protect books, plays, or songs, you need to copyright your work.
What type of patent do I need?
The two most common types of patents are “utility patents” and “design patents”:
- A utility patent protects the functionality of an invention, such as its operation and structure.
- A design patent protects the “ornamental design” of a product or, in other words, its aesthetics.
There is a third type of patent, a plant patent, which is much less common. This applies to new and distinctive plants as long as the creator was able to reproduce the plant asexually.
What is the procedure for filing a patent?
Here are the key steps to file your patent application:
Step 1 – Determine if you are eligible to file a patent application and what type of patent you need (according to the criteria discussed above).
2nd step – File a provisional patent application. It will support your case if someone claims they had an idea before you.
Step 3 – Request a customer number and digital certificate through the USPTO.
Step 4 – Complete and file your application through the USPTO.
To save time and stress, you can choose to appoint an experienced patent attorney to file the patent application for you. Although this is a significant upfront cost, it will save you from making mistakes that could prove costly later. This is especially true when it comes to defining the legal scope of your patent.
Once submitted to the USPTO, you will be assigned a patent examiner who will review your application and determine whether or not to grant your patent. If your application is initially denied, you may be able to appeal the decision or submit an amended application for reconsideration.
When should I file a patent?
The patent filing process, from filing to grant, can take up to 30 months, so you’ll want to start as soon as possible.
It should also be noted that the USPTO operates on a “first to file” basis. This means that if someone with the same product or design applies for a patent before you do, you will lose ownership rights.
How much does a patent cost?
Obtaining and maintaining a patent for 20 years can cost between $20,000 and $60,000. The cost varies depending on the type of product or design being patented, filing and application fees, rejection and resubmissions through the USPTO, and whether you opt for US or worldwide protection.
How long is my patent valid?
In most cases, a newly filed patent will be valid for 20 years from the date of your application. During this period, no one else can enjoy your product or your design.
What happens if I don’t get a patent?
Obtaining a patent will protect your ideas and your business. Without it, not only could another entity start profiting from your product or design, but they could also choose to file their own patent and ultimately put you out of business.
Although the process is often slow and frustrating, it is certainly a worthwhile insurance policy.
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