Want to Register a Patent?

You'll need a patent application for that.

If you're idea is patentable, you must create an application to apply for a patent via the United States government in order to protect your invention from others taking it. Because, in the U.S., it's not the first one who has the idea, but the first one to register a patent is the one protected in court.

1. Do you know what type of patent you need?

There are a wide variety of patents you can register for, but you need to know what type of patent would work best for you.

Here are some categories of common types of patents:

Utility Patents

Utility patents are the most common type of patents. A utility patent protects the way something is used and how it works, such as a process or article of a process, a machine, product, or composition of matter.

Utility patents are literally meant for an invention that has a useful function or purpose such as a new power hand tool, a new car engine, etc.

Design Patents

A design patent has to do with the visual shape or design embodied in or applied to a manufactured product. Creating a design patent means that you are creating a new ornamental feature to an item. This means that if you have manufactured a new computer with a design that no one else has come up with, you would have to claim two different patents.

You would have a utility patent for the computer (a machine), and if you think the invention lies on the new ornamental feature of how the computer is shaped, you would only need to apply for a design patent.

Plant Patents

Plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of a plant. Asexual reproduction is the propagation of a plant to multiply the plant without the use of genetic seeds to assure an exact genetic copy of the plant may be employed.

If you need more information about plant patents, several accepted modes of reproduction are labeled on the United States Trademark and Patent (USPTO) website. If granted, a plant patent will last for 20 years from the date of filing the application, which will allow the patent holder to exclude others from reproducing, selling or using the plant in any way.

Software Patents

Patenting is becoming the method of choice for effective protection of original computer software. A software patent must have all the same criteria as any other patentable material.

The software must be novel, useful, and non-obvious to someone of ordinary skill in the field of computer software. It's often difficult to define what the non-obvious element of a software patent it because computer software is a fairly new process.

Computer software must fall into one of the following patent classes: utility, design or plant. You will find that software usually falls into the utility category because is is described as a collection of processes. 

2. Determine what type of patent application you will need to file for in order to be regsitered.

You will need to file a provisional patent, a non-provisional patent, or an international patent.

Filing for a provisional patent in the U.S.

A provisional patent application has many differences that are not allowed from a non-provisional patent.

The big difference is that you will not need all of the formalities that you will need for a non-provisional patent. A provisional patent application states what you would like to patent, which then allows you to put a “patent pending” label on your invention, which in turn saves your spot in line to file a non-provisional patent later on down the line, but it will need to be done within a year before the provisional patent expires.

Essentially you file to hold your spot in line for a time frame (one year), to figure out if you would like to move forward and file a full non-provisional patent or not. 

Filing a non-provisional patent in the U.S.

A non-provisional patent is a standard patent that protects an invention within the U.S. for 14-20 years, depending on the type of patent you have registered for. A lot more detail is required for this application, including a description that would allow another person of ordinary skill to recreate your invention.

Drafting the specification and the claims are what makes creating a non-provisional patent application quite the challenge. The most successful patent applications have professional, qualified lawyers draft the details as well as create patent drawings to give a better idea of the invention.

Filing for an International Patent

Under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), an international agreement with several countries, an inventor may register a single international patent application in order to seek protection for an invention across any country that has signed the agreement. The World Intellectual Property Organization has a list of every country that has signed this agreement.

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