Getting Patent on an Idea: What is a Patent?

A patent gives the owner the ability to restrict others from making, using, selling, or importing your invention without your consent.

Getting Patent on an Idea: Filing a Patent Without an Attorney

If you don’t want to hire an attorney to file your patent application, then you can use patent examiners at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to help you. The requirements for a patent include making sure that your invention qualifies and making sure you can describe all aspects of the invention.

Getting Patent on an Idea: Steps to Filing a Patent Application

When filing a patent application, you’ll want to keep accurate records of your invention. Make note of every step you have taken to develop the product. You will also want to have diagrams and keep notes of all aspects of the invention. If you have a test model or prototype of your invention, then also keep a record of the process of building it. Make sure that you have recorded the date and time of each step, and it would be a good idea to have witnesses sign as well, if possible.

You cannot get a patent just because you have an idea. The invention must work, and it must be a novel idea. On your application, you must prove both of these. Your invention for which you are applying for a patent must not already be an item for sale from someone else.

Additionally, you cannot patent something that happens naturally, an abstract concept, or an invention with no actual use.

Getting a patent is something you’ll want to determine from a business perspective. The cost of obtaining a patent, even without hiring an attorney, can cost around $1,500 in filing fees and other associated costs. The USPTO can help you with the process, but there are still fees and charges you will need to pay for.

Don’t apply for a patent that has already been given. You may think you have a novel idea, but it is nearly impossible to know everything that everyone else has invented. Try searching in your specific field, do a search on the USPTO website, and also pay attention to what might be documented in journals and other publications.

When deciding to hire a patent attorney, you can start by asking the USPTO for help, and also try searching in your local area or go to a law school. Law schools often have clinics to help students get practical experience in various aspects of the law.

You will have to wait for a formal response from the USPTO. This can take a while, so be patient. Some people have to wait a year or longer to hear back. Even after waiting all that time, the response could be a denial. Some reasons for denial include that the invention is not new, that it does not qualify for a patent, or that there was an issue with your application or the application’s contents. Ask for help from a professional if you feel you have a valid appeal.

To appeal the USPTO's decision, you can contact their office and make your argument. You can also amend your application if you left something out that led to a denial. For this process, you should consult an attorney who specializes in patents. The last thing you want to do is resubmit your application multiple times.

Getting Patent on an Idea: Types of Patent Application

A provisional patent application (PPA) is not an actual patent application. Instead, the PPA allows you to say you have a “patent pending” for your invention. This process requires only a small fraction of the work and cost of a regular patent application.

All that is required to file a provisional patent application is a fee of $65 for micro-entities, $130 for small entities, and $260 for large companies. You will also need to provide a detailed description of the invention, a description of how to use it and its various purposes, and a drawing that shows the invention. You do not need a drawing if the patent is for a chemical compound.

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