A quick guide to the patent process.
While fairly straightforward, the technical terms and legal aspects of filing a patent application can be confusing. I've attempted to outline the patent process step-by-step and include simple explanations of patent terminology you will encounter along the way. It should be noted that getting a Trademark or Copyright follows a very different process.
Contact Noro IP for more specific information in those areas.
Step 1: Record the Invention ASAP
When you first invent something, it is important to write up a complete, dated description of the invention. Later, this record will provide evidence that the inventor possessed the invention on the date indicated. In the United States, a patent is given to the first to invent, not the first to apply for a patent. The inventor must sign and date the description and have one other witness sign and date it as well. The record can be simple and short, but should include enough details to convey clearly what the invention is. In most cases, it will utilize patent drawings or diagrams, which show how the invention works.
Step 2: Don't Talk About It!
If the invention has been described in a printed publication, has been in public use or on sale before the invention was recorded (here's where that dated record comes in handy), it can not be patented. Also, if an invention has been described in a printed publication, has been in public use or on sale for more than one year before the formal patent application date, it cannot be patented.
Step 3: Perform a Patentability (Novelty) Search
Many people don't realize just how much has already been patented. Even if you don't see your invention on the shelves, that doesn't mean it's not already be owned by another inventor. Because of this, Noro IP highly recommends getting a Patentability (Novelty) Search done before applying for a patent. Patent applications can cost approximately $2,000 - $10,000 and take years to complete. But Patentability (Novelty) Searches start at $300 and take approximately 1-2 weeks, saving you considerable time and money to determine if your invention is patentable and if filing a patent application is worth it.
An invention must be new, useful and non-obvious to get a patent granted. You may conduct a Patentability (Novelty) Search on your own using keywords and search terms using the free USPTO Patent Database or other patent databases. You will also want to search the USPTO's Patent and Trademark Depository Library for other patent-related publications.
However, given that millions of patents exist, a Patent Agent or Attorney will be more efficient at conducting a professional, exhaustive search that proves an invention to be new, useful and non-obvious.
Your Patentability (Novelty) Search done by a reputable Patent Agent or Attorney can answer the following questions:
a) Is your idea truly novel, has already been patented, has been anticipated or rendered obvious?
b) Is it worth the cost of filing a patent at all, given the scope of patentability?
c) What is your competition doing?
d) Is it worth the effort and expense to fully develop and market your concept?
The results of the Patentability (Novelty) Search will be printed on your patent and serve as evidence that your invention is novel. During the application process a Patent Examiner from the USPTO will also conduct a similar search and may discover different findings.
Step 4: To Apply or not to Apply?
After analyzing all the related information from your Patentability Search and marketing and development research, you need to make a decision whether to apply for a patent or whether to continue developing your invention further. In the case of applying, you have several options available depending upon your time schedule, the invention's need for protection and available funds. Your registered Patent Agent or Attorney can help you with professional recommendations, but the ultimate decision is yours as an inventor.
Step 5: Filing a Patent Application
There are three categories of patents you may apply for: Design, Plant, and Utility. The majority of Patent Applications are Utility Patent Applications and there are two types of Utility Applications: Provisional and Non-Provisional.
A Provisional Utility Patent Application provides immediate protection for your invention while giving you time to file a regular, Non-Provisional Patent Application. A Provisional Patent allows an inventor to claim "patent pending" status for the invention for 12 months at a fraction of the price of a regular Patent Application. Often five to ten pages, a Provisional Patent Application consists of text and drawings that describe how to make and use your invention.
It provides the inventor with a 12 month period to further develop the invention, determine marketability and seek licensing agreements. If you file a regular, Non-Provisional Patent Application within 12 months of filing the Provisional, you can claim the original Provisional filing date to prove that your invention came before other similar developments.
A Non-Provisional Patent Application is a regular Patent Application that will protect your invention for 20 years. It is more detailed than the Provisional Application and includes a full set of claims and patent drawings. It costs more than the Provisional to prepare and file and takes longer to process as well. The US Patent and Trademark Office has very specific requirements for preparing and filing a Non-Provisional Utility Patent Application, which must include a data sheet; a specification; a claim or claims; drawings, when necessary; an oath or declaration; and the prescribed filing, search, and examination fees.
There are many other legal nuances in the Patent Application process which can affect patentability and enforceability such as rules about who can apply for a patent, claim types and specific patent law definitions of new, useful and non-obvious. Noro IP can walk you through the entire process from start to finish. Articlebase