Getting a patent is how someone protects an invention or innovation as intellectual property. When you get patent rights for your invention, you have “the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling” the thing patented, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). It’s not an automatic process. Before the USPTO will issue a patent, an intensive review process is required to establish that your idea is genuinely new and useful.
Things You'll Need
- Patent attorney or agent
- Technical data on invention
Decide if your idea is the sort that is patentable. To qualify for a patent, it must be useful. That is, the invention has to do something specific. Inventions, improvements to existing devices, designs and even innovative combinations of existing technology may be patentable. Some genetically engineered life and some computer programs are also patentable. Something that already exists in nature or a scientific discovery is not patentable.
Apply for a 12-month provisional patent. The USPTO grants provisional patents to allow you to establish your priority as inventor and still give you enough time to complete the complicated process needed to get patent rights.
Conduct a preliminary patent search. The easiest way to do this is online (see link below), although you may still go to the Patent Office facility in Arlington, Virginia and do the search in person. The preliminary search is to make sure that there isn’t a prior patent on the essential features of your invention.
Provide your patent attorney or agent with the technical data and test results from your prototype. After consulting with you, she will do a more rigorous search of related patents to determine what parts of your idea are not covered by prior patents and so are ones for which you can get patent rights.
Prepare the patent application. There are four sections included in the full application. Begin with a discussion of “prior art,” which is existing technology that is relevant to your own invention. Second is a summary of your invention, followed by what is called the “preferred embodiment.” The latter explains the proposed design of your invention. Last is the claims section, which is the heart of the application. Here you provide detailed technical specifications, drawings and data to describe exactly what your innovation does and how it works. When the application is complete, your patent attorney/agent will file it with the USPTO
Be prepared to revise your patent application. The entire application will be reviewed by a patent examiner. In most cases, the examiner will identify some unresolved issues and reject the application the first time it is submitted. Once you address the points the examiner raised, resubmit the application.
Pay the USPTO patent fee once your application is approved. The patent, once granted, is good for 20 years, although you will have to pay periodic maintenance fees to keep it in force.