How to Patent a New Idea

Learning how to patent a new idea involves exploring all the possibilities around it, then applying the idea to a patent application.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) outlines the process and requires that the idea must become sketched, visualized, detailed, and searched to even have a change at a patent.

The patent system of laws ensures your idea gets full value of protection from other entities, and forces you to consider all variations of an idea. These are alternatives that list other ways an idea or invention can work.

Moving from Idea to Patent

The process of the application requires that detailed descriptions of your idea are provided. There must be enough detail given so that a person unfamiliar with your invention is able to recreate the invention.

Sketching the parts of your idea is also an important step in moving from idea to patent. It helps other visualize the content you describe, and leaves no doubt as to what your idea does or does not do. Patent illustrators exist, and can help you bring your idea to life for a fee. However, if you wanted to sketch your patent yourself, the USPTO will accept these too. The following are some tips for sketching and illustrating:

  • Label and detail the sketches so as to offer more evidence of what your idea is.
  • Consider doing sketches and illustrations in 3-D format. Detailed drawings such as these make it more likely to receive approval.

Specific details about your invention or idea need to be kept to yourself or with trusted colleagues. Intellectual property can become stolen so be careful not to share deep details until the patent process nears completion. Certain patent applications protect your developing project for a year and let you phase in aspects of the patent process. It allows a business to display the “patent pending” on its materials. This alerts the business community that legalities exist for using ideas or the invention without proper compensation.

Also, understand that research at other companies may overlap your own on your invention. Once the patent process starts the possibilities of making mutually beneficial relationships materialize. If those entities respect the pending patent and pay fairly for its rights, your invention can become attached to another company’s prototype.

Other means exist to protect an idea or invention that do not meet the level of a patent but still offer protection for your rights. Often companies have you sign non-disclosure agreements or confidentiality agreements to ensure you do not share their product or service without their permission. Just as equally having a patent pending reminds companies that while you are searching for help, it is not allowed to use your idea or invention without permission. Consider using a university to help you in the process of all this. Education facilities are extremely familiar with confidentiality agreements and know how to approach and handle such items.

Types of Confidentiality Agreements

While waiting, making confidentiality agreements keeps everyone honest. Several categories exist.

  • One-sided confidentiality agreement – a disclosing party and a receiving part agree to maintain secrecy about a pending patent or project.
  • Mutually confidentiality agreement – both parties state confidential information for the purpose of disclosing information to a group or to start negotiations of a business deal.
  • Unilateral confidentiality agreement-one party gives confidential information but not the other. This type of agreement occurs when an inventor converses with a possible investor or to obtain a license.

Turning Your Invention Ideas into a Product

The following steps should be taken in order to help facilitate turning your invention ideas into a product:

  • File a patent
  • Look at all the possibilities and the markets. This gives key insight into turning an idea into product.
  • Conduct surveys of what consumers want and what they buy. This helps define and refine what the product should become.

Document

Start by making notes of how you came up with the idea and what areas you have explored. It gives a trail of documents that show how an idea evolved over time. It also gives proof to a court if someone steals the idea. The original rough sketches and notes offer adequate proof the idea is yours.

Write down all the possibilities. As time goes on some of those paths will become embodiments or variations of your original idea and can become included in the patent. Some people place the information in an envelope and mail to themselves to provide a third party stamping of when they had the original idea. It may not hold up in court, but it does offer another verification that the idea was yours. You could also journal the entire process. Having a witness occasionally sign the book will not hurt and along with other information offers more proof.

Research

Understanding how to patent an idea all begins with conducting research. You should aim to do the following in order to cover all research bases:

  • Research from a legal viewpoint to protect the idea
  • Research from a business standpoint to see if it marketable
  • Research that the idea has not cropped up before. Patent libraries are useful for this.
  • Check in with the USPTO. The examiners would be able to guide you if you don’t have a patent attorney.
  • If you hire a patent attorney, they should offer the search service as part of their fee.
  • Have a non-patent “prior art” search done on any sketches as well. Artwork holds up a patent as easily as text does.
  • Take a look at developing trends in the market and what the markets for your invention are like.
  • Do some research on production cost of creating your product.
  • Consider pricing. Take a look at similar products on the market to get an idea of how to price your product.

Make a Prototype

Making a three dimensional model of the invention gives insights into its workings. This adds more detail to the patent and shows other variations of your invention.  It gives something physical to present to investors, lenders, and licensees. Accept that the idea, even with the prototype, will not be perfect.

Part of the process becomes working out issues or expanding as needed. A three-dimensional working model presents the truth of your idea and shows the possibilities of combining with other enterprises. If there remains a need other business will buy the rights or license your invention for use. Having the prototype lets the other company check compatibility. Make sure they can be trusted. Better yet have a trusted group of colleagues help clarify ideas and processes. Those opinions can alleviate much stress and shine a light on other possibilities you may have not even considered. It will also determine if you have revamped a piece of a process or created something entirely new. Patents are given for improvement on pieces. That clarifies immensely what the patent will be for.

File a Patent

Several types of patents exist. New ways or machines take a utility patent, and most patents fall into this category. If it involves art and fashion, then a design patent needs to be filled out. If it involves green living plants, then apply for a plant patent.

Fill out the application but have an attorney look over the document. Depending on your market research, determine the level you want to protect the patent. If it has big market potential pay the fees and get an attorney to protect it. Competition can be a wonderful economic tool, but can sometimes destroy new ideas. That affects the economy in an immensely negative way. New markets create new services or improve existing markets. In the early stages, competition is not an effective technique to get your invention or idea patented.

Marketing Your Invention

Spend a portion of your time checking trends in the market that your idea or invention can use. Look at the markets presently as well. Expert blogs remain a good place to check on trends. Be sure to check by regions as well, since what is unpopular in one region may be like gold in another. If your business has a global aspect, check if the patent should be done in the USA or in a foreign country—foreign country patents do not use the same process. Ask questions to those in the market of where they think the market will go and what will be hot the next year.

Conducting Research

Check first what can become patented and what cannot be patented early on. Natural events, abstract ideas, and invention that have no use, such as improvements on an eight-track tape (old audio technology) are not fodder for patents. A list in the FAQ at the Patent Office exists that can answer questions. Look for items that can rule out a patent.

Applying and Filing for a Patent

Electronic filing exists at the United States Patent Office. So, begin by registering your idea there. Obtain a customer number along with a digital certificate. Federal law requires examiners to help inventors who do not have a patent attorney. Doing each piece and reading the form carefully will help you navigate the system and fill out the application.

Writing Your Patent Application

Gather the research, the documents and the sketches made. Scan and see where each piece should fit. Take pictures with your cell phone, so you have a digital copy of the information. Now reread the application and see if it makes more sense now that you have done the process. Make decisions on how the invention becomes used and how it will become produced. See what points can be interchanged with other elements and make note of it. Resolve any doubts you have about the originality. You have done your homework, and the Patent Office will take care of the rest.

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