How to Get a Patent on a Product: Everything You Need to Know

Getting a patent for your invention is a multi-step process that involves a great deal of research and patience. A patent on a product protects the invention from being used by another individual or company. This process can be completed by an individual, but it is highly recommended to use the services of a patent attorney who is familiar with the intricacies of applying for a patent. Here, you'll learn how to get a patent on a product before marketing your invention.

Filing a Patent Without an Attorney

Patent examiners at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) are required by federal law to assist inventors who wish to complete their patent applications without the help of an attorney. As a result, this system has been successfully navigated independently by thousands of patent holders. First, inventors must ensure their invention qualifies for a patent by describing all aspects of the invention.

Steps to Filing a Patent Application

When filing for a patent application, take the following steps:

  • Carefully record all aspects of the invention.
    • Keep a notebook or electronic file that describes every aspect of your invention, including how you came up with the idea and how it has been modified. In some cases, you might also want to build a prototype of the invention. Each entry in the record should be dated and signed; you may also want to have it signed by two reliable witnesses.
  • Ensure the invention qualifies for a patent.
    • To qualify for a patent, an invention must be distinguished from all previous inventions. You also can't sell the invention or tell others about it before filling out a patent application.
  • Know which type of protection you need.
    • With a provisional application, you have proof that you are the inventor as of the date of filing. This gives you a year of protection while you file the complete application.
  • Assess your invention's commercial potential.
    • You'll need to pay about $1,500 in fees to file for and obtain a patent, before attorney's fees and the services of professional illustrator to develop patent drawings. Before spending this money, it pays to do market research to ensure your invention will sell.
  • Do a complete patent search.
    • Before filing for a patent, make sure a patent doesn't already exist on a similar invention by conducting a thorough patent search. While you can conduct this search yourself via the internet or at a patent and trademark depository library, you can also hire a professional patent searcher.
  • Prepare and file your patent application.
    • The provisional patent application (PPA) allows you to claim patent pending status at an affordable cost without the work of a full patent application — also called a regular patent application or RPA. The fee to file a PPA is $65 for micro-entities, $130 for small businesses, and $260 for large companies. You must then file an RPA within a year of filing the PPA; without filing the RPA by this deadline, you can no longer claim patent pending status.
    • Once you file the RPA, the USPTO begins examining your application. This formal patent protects your invention for 14-20 years. You'll need to establish the invention's manufacturing process and describe what parts of the invention can be patented and how they are different from any existing patent.
  • File the right application.
    • You'll need to apply for either a design, utility, or plant patent. If you want international patent protection, you need to file an application in each country where you want to protect your patent. Filing a patent cooperation treaty (PCT) application or EU application allows you to apply in more than one country at once.
    • The narrative portion of the RPA is called a specification attachment and details the type of invention, any prior iterations, what the invention's purpose is, how it is assembled, and how it works, along with an abstract and patent claims. Many inventors find the claims portion to be the most difficult part of the application, but a patent attorney can provide valuable assistance.
  • Finally, each patent form must be accompanied by a signed and notarized oath that states the invention's creator. An information disclosure statement is the place to include any other relevant information.

You can file utility and design patents electronically on the USPTO website, which keeps your application secure and ensures successful delivery. You can also print and mail your patent application, which is more expensive than filing online. Plant patents must be submitted using this method. When applying for a patent by mail, you must include a self-addressed stamped receipt postcard.

In some cases, the application review process for a patent can take several years. However, you can file for expedited examination.

If a patent is denied, this means that the invention already exists. If you continue with your invention after a patent denial, you are committing patent infringement and are subject to legal penalties.

However, you can also choose to appeal the USPTO's denial of your patent application. A patent attorney can help you amend your application materials for a successful resubmission.

Intrepid Inventors Who Got Patents Without Lawyers

John Stewart, a former AT&T employee from Orlando, Florida, has had 17 patent applications approved so far out of 21 applications filed. Filing these applications himself saved him an estimated $100,000 in attorney fees. Stewart's patented inventions include an electric shaver, a lifter to repair uneven sidewalks, a volleyball net adjuster, and hydraulic exercise equipment. He says he did not feel at a disadvantage without a lawyer and worked closely with qualified patent examiners.

Los Angeles housewife Carol Randall also reported a positive experience with the examiners at USPTO who helped her rewrite her application to make it stronger. Randall had an attorney for her first patent but went it alone for her second patent, ear clips that keep the ears from being burned by hot hair tools or relaxing chemicals.

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