If you have an idea for an invention or proprietary process, you could stand to make a significant profit, but only if you take the necessary measures needed to protect your creation by filing a patent application.
Contrary to popular belief, getting a patent is not a fast, simple process and many applications are declined, leaving inventors unsure of how to proceed. An experienced patent lawyer can help you with every single step of the process, from completing your application and submitting it to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), to filing patent appeals and much more.
Common Questions When Protecting an Invention
Patenting is a process that is available to any individual who, according to United States patent law, “invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof…”
But the process for patenting can be complex and many are not sure of whether they are in need of a patent, a copyright or a trademark. So, let us take a look at exactly how patenting works and what can be expected as you proceed through the process.•
How Do I Know if I Need a Patent?
There are lots of commercials and marketing materials that promote the concept of “patenting an idea” but the reality is that you need more than just an idea. In actuality, you need something more concrete and precise, such as:
- a method or process;
- a machine, comprised of moving parts and/or circuitry;
- a new composition of materials such as a formula for making a medication;
- a manufactured article, like a tool or instrument; or
- an “asexually reproduced” variety of plant.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has very strict requirements for what does and does not qualify for patenting. The USPTO will not issue a patent for certain things like mathematical formulas, naturally-occurring items (such as an element or mineral) or processes that involve only the human body (such as a gesture or a dance move.)
Some people are also confused as to whether they require a patent, copyright or trademark. Patents apply to an actual invention of some kind, as outlined above. Copyrighting applies to creative works, like writing, images or graphics. Trademarking is used to protect a logo or brand name. An experienced attorney can help you determine whether a trademark, copyright, or patent is best for you and how to proceed.•
What Type of Patent Do I Need? And What is the Difference Between Non-Provisional and Provisional Applications?
There are different types of patents including:
- Utility Patents (enforceable for 20 years);
- Design Patents (enforceable for 15 years); and
- Plant Patents (enforceable for 20 years).
There are also two types of applications, known as provisional and non-provisional. Some inventors file a provisional application, which affords a degree of protection by allowing you to establish a filing date for your invention. Once the application is filed, you are permitted to market the item as “patent pending.”
If you fail to do anything further after filing a provisional patent application, then your application expires after one year. You must then proceed to the next step to get a non-provisional patent application within the one-year timeframe in order to move forward with patent prosecution.
What Happens After I File a Patent Application?
Once the application is submitted, it will then be subject to review by a USPTO examiner, who will issue an approval or a rejection. In the case of a rejection, you will typically be provided with information on the reason for the rejection.
Your patent lawyer can help you respond to USPTO office actions for successful prosecution of your invention through patent issue. Your attorney can also assist with all aspects of patent prosecution, including negotiating and speaking with the USPTO on your behalf, addressing amendments to your patent and dealing with opposition in cases where a third party comes forward to argue that your patent should be denied.