Should I Request a Patent Search?

Before applying for a patent, your first step should be to request an extensive search of existing patents. If your invention isn't a good option for a patent, you can learn this before you waste a lot of money and time submitting a patent application. A patent search can also help you improve how patentable your invention may be, especially if you find similar existing patents. If this is the case, you can alter your invention and increase the chances of it being patented.

Patent Search

By conducting a patent search, you can save money and time before you start completing the application process. It's critical to identify any published applications or existing patents that are similar to what you are applying to patent.

Provisional Patent Application

After you have completed your patent search and found that your idea is patentable, the next step may be to file a provisional patent application. Although this option doesn't grant you an official patent, the application is an important step for many applicants of utility patents. When you file this application, it will mark the priority filing date with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Additionally, when you file this application, you can include the term “patent pending” on your invention.

Utility Patent

A utility patent is the most common type and is issued to useful and new inventions. Utility patents are most commonly issued to protect the operation or function of a:

  • Process
  • Chemical
  • Machine

Prior to filing an application for a utility patent, you may wish to secure the filing date by filing a provisional patent application. This will also allow you to enter into the status of patent pending with your invention.

Protect Your Invention

With a utility patent an inventor holds the exclusive right to make, import, sell and/or use the invention that falls under the protection. This means that no one else can legally participate in any of these activities related to the patented invention.

What is a Utility Patent?

The majority of inventors seeking patent protection are referring to the protection granted under utility patents. A utility patent covers the widest range of invention categories and provides protection for inventions that produce some type of result that is useful and new. This type of patent differs from a design patent, which only protects the ornamental design of an object.

In order to qualify for protection under a utility patent, an invention must fit into one of the required categories:

  • A composition of matter, including compounds, mixtures, pharmaceuticals, and manmade proteins.
  • A machine, often made up of parts that can move, such as an engine or a clock.
  • A process or a method that includes steps to complete, such as a method of doing business or a type of software.
  • An article of manufacture or a useful item that contains few moving parts or none at all, such as a bolt or screwdriver.

When Should I File My Utility Patent Application?

After completing your invention, it's important to file the patent application as soon as possible. With the USPTO, first-come, first-serve rules apply, so the first person to file a patent application is nearly always considered to be the inventor behind the idea. Filing your patent application in a timely fashion also has other benefits. When you have completed and submitted the application, you can put anyone who might consider copying your idea on notice with the label of patent pending.

Upon receiving approval for a patent application, the holder of that protection could seek royalty payments or take legal action against another person or company who used or manufactured the invention during the provisional patent period.

Design Patent

A design patent is typically less complex and offers protection on the distinctive appearance of a functional item.

In order to qualify, the design of an object must:

  • Be purely ornamental
  • Not impact the function
  • Be an inseparable component

Commonly Asked Questions

A design patent's term is 14 years and begins on the date the USPTO grants the patent to the inventor. A utility patent's term is 20 years and begins on the priority filing date of the application. With a design patent, the holder doesn't have to pay maintenance fees, but this type of patent isn't renewable.

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