How to copyright an invention may be better worded as how to patent an invention. Although patents and copyrights are both used for intellectual property, the types of creations they protect are different.

Copyrights and Patents

A copyright grants its owner exclusive rights to his or her art or authorship, such as a painting or a novel.

If you've invented something new and want to protect your rights to your invention, however, you need to seek a patent. Patents give invention creators exclusive rights, which include the following:

  • Excludes others from making, selling, using, or offering to sell the invention or product in the U.S.
  • Excludes others from importing the invention into the U.S.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office grants patents to inventors who create novel and nonobvious inventions. Patent rights are granted in exchange for public disclosure of the invention in the patent. Patents have a limited time period. Typically, patents last about 20 years from date of filing with the Patent Office.

Preparing a Patent Application

To get ready to file a patent application, follow these steps:

  1. Read the Patent Office guides.
  2. Choose an application type.
  3. Register at the USPTO.
  4. Have drawings made.
  5. Draft claims.

You may want to start by reading the Patent Office guides on how to apply. You'll find useful information on everything you need for a complete application.

You have the option to file a provisional or nonprovisional patent application.

A provisional patent application only requires a description of the invention. You may include a drawing. The office won't review this patent, but it will give it a filing date.

A provisional application allows you to secure a filing date as early as possible. You then have a year to find out if your invention is commercially viable. Filing a provisional application comes with several benefits, such as the following:

  • You have a lower filing fee than with a nonprovisional application.
  • It's easier to prepare because you don't have to include all of the information.
  • You're able to use the patent pending notice, which may deter infringement.
  • It extends the patent term by up to one year.
  • It helps you keep your invention secret because it's not published. You can use that time to test for commercial viability.

A nonprovisional application must be much more detailed in its description, and it requires drawings. When you file it, the Patent Office will start examining it.

You can register at the USPTO as a user. You don't have to file your application electronically, but you'll pay additional fees if you submit a paper application.

You might have to include a pen-and-ink drawing of your invention if it's necessary to show how it works. For instance, a drawing would be required to show a mechanical process, like an engine. However, you don't need a drawing to demonstrate how a computer program operates.

Photographs aren't acceptable. You'll probably want to hire a professional draftsman, who typically charges $75-$150 per sheet. Make sure whoever you hire provides free revisions, since the Patent Office may request them.

Claims are critical to your patent application, as they define the limits of what your patent covers. You can think of a claim in excluding others from using, making, and selling only what you claim. If you claim a substance as a binding agent, you can't exclude others from using the substance as a flavoring addition.

Your invention may have more than one claim, and a patent examiner will evaluate each. Write your claims as sentence fragments. An example for concrete may read like this:

  • “A rigid paving and building material made up of sand and stones”
  • “A hardened binder filling spaces between and adhering to sand and stones”

When you write your claims, think of the different components in your invention and how they relate and connect to one another. Consider a template where you fill in the spaces: “A [insert invention] comprising: [list each part separately] and [explain how the parts relate or connect].”

If you create intellectual property, you want to protect your rights to it as much as possible. Applying for a patent is a time-consuming, costly process. To ensure you adhere to all rules and guidelines, you may want to consult with a patent attorney.

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