You need to know how to patent a tool if you are inventing a new one. A patent is a form of intellectual property. In other words, it is a right that is granted by the United States to inventors. It provides protection from others using, selling or importing an invention unless they have the inventor's consent to do so. The inventor can choose to license or sell the rights outlined by the claims of the patent.

Are All Ideas Eligible to Be Patented?

Not all ideas are eligible to be patented. Eligible patent ideas must be original and not patented already. Once you have established your idea is patent worthy and available for a patent, you must then apply for a patent with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Especially as an inventor or business owner, it is important to be familiar with what is considered to be patentable. A process, an article of manufacture, a machine, a composition of matter, or any improvement of those previously mentioned are all ideas or inventions that may be eligible for a patent. Conversely, an invention that is not considered as being useful is not eligible for a patent, nor are any natural phenomenon and abstract ideas.

How to Determine If an Invention Can Be Patented

When determining if an invention or idea is patentable, it is suggested to review the list of requirements on the USPTO's website, at You must determine whether your idea is:

  • New
  • Non-obvious
  • Useful

Before starting the patenting process, you should ask yourself if the idea or invention is a new invention. Next ask yourself if the idea or invention is non-obvious, or in other words, unique. Lastly, ask yourself if the idea or invention is useful.

Asking yourself if the idea or invention is new requires you to ask yourself if you have heard of or seen the invention before. If there has been a similar idea or invention, it most likely will not be eligible for patenting.

When determining whether your idea or invention is non-obvious, ask yourself if it is unique and most likely something no one else has thought of in the past and are unlikely to think of. For instance, if your idea consists of a process that involves making a structure sturdy, you would need to consider whether architects or engineers have most likely considered the same process before.

By thinking about the target audience who would most likely be using your idea or invention, you can answer the question "is your idea or invention useful?" If consumers, researchers, or manufactures would most likely think their lives would benefit from your idea or invention, then it is likely you can get a patent.

Who Has to Apply for a Patent?

The inventor of the idea or invention must be the one to apply for the patent. The law does allow exceptions for this under certain circumstances.

1. A person, other than the inventor, may apply for a patent if the inventor has assigned the invention to the applicant.

2. A legal representative, such as an administrator or executor of an estate, may apply for a patent if the inventor is deceased.

3. Joint inventors may apply for a patent together if both parties were involved in the idea or invention. This does not include persons who have only a monetary stake in the idea or invention.

4. Through an inheritance or bequest, USPTO employees are able to apply for a patent.

You should do your due diligence to ensure your idea has not been previously patented or is an old idea. To do a thorough search you will need to conduct a search for previous public disclosures, also referred to as prior art, along with patents in the United States, foreign patents and printed publications.

Is Filing a Patent Simple?

Filing a patent is not a simple process. It demands much time and is a very complex process. A knowledgeable patent attorney can provide many benefits and the USPTO website provides a list to help you find assistance.

Low-Income Options for Filing a Patent

Low-income applicants have legal options available to help with the expense of acquiring a patent. The USPTO assistance program gives inventors an opportunity to meet with a patent attorney face to face or the opportunity to receive advice by phone or email. Law firms will provide pro bone legal help often, so it may be worth checking local law firms if you need financial assistance with your patent.

If you need help with knowing how to patent a tool, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.