Patents 101 is a good starting point if you want information on obtaining a patent. You'll learn what you need to get started, what's included in a patent, and how to get one. You'll also find out if your creation is actually patentable and the different types of patents available.

Getting Started

You can try to obtain a patent on your own, but you might consider hiring a patent attorney who will represent you. Whether you do it yourself or not, you need several crucial pieces of information related to inventions and patents

The more you know, the better prepared you'll be. You'll be less likely to suffer some of the pitfalls that unwitting and unsuspecting inventors fall victim to. You'll also have the information you need to understand the many nuances of the law. A well-informed inventor can provide meaningful help to the team behind him or her. 

You can't patent an idea, but you can move your idea into a stage where it's patentable.

What's in a Patent?

A patent consists of several parts.

The specification begins with a brief description of the field of the invention. It's a detailed presentation of your invention. It should include prior art, and it has to include the best method of using the invention that you know of. You also must include descriptions of the invention's essential components.

The background section details work performed in the past (including prior art) and any shortcomings. You must disclose all the prior art that you know about. Include drawings if that makes it easier for someone to understand the invention.

Next, you include a disclosure. This covers a broad scope of what you consider your invention to be and any advantages it has. The summary outlines the theory the invention rests on and includes complete details on how to use the invention.

Every implementation is referred to as an embodiment. The preferred one is regarded as the best implementation. The section on industrial applicability shows applications in which your invention can be used.

Claims begin with broad descriptions of the invention's essential elements and then move into more narrow descriptions. Narrow claims may make it easier to get a patent, but if they're too narrow, it's possible for someone else to work around your patented invention.

A patent has to include the following: 

  • An oath, or statement, saying you believe you're the first person to invent the item or process 
  • Your signature 
  • Any required fees

How Do You Get a Patent?

Before you make your creation public, you should think about filing a patent. This is important if you believe you have a commercially viable creation. If you go public and don't have a patent for it, your idea could be stolen and used by someone else. If you don't file before going public with your invention, you could also forfeit the rights to patents in other countries. 

You'll begin by visiting the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website and filing an application there. Because the USPTO has such specific guidelines on how to assemble an application package (including the way any drawings are presented), you might want to enlist the aid of a lawyer who's experienced in patent law.

To choose a patent attorney wisely, consider the following: 

  • Technical competence 
  • Prior experience in such cases 
  • Inventor preferences

Inventors must be cooperative in filing and prosecuting patents. While a patent lawyer is educated in the general field of your invention, he or she isn't likely to have the same degree of expertise as you, the person who invented it. To get appropriate patent protection for your invention, you should have a good rapport with your chosen attorney.

Your invention will have the status of “Patent Pending” when you turn in your application. A status of “Patent Pending” gives other people notice and warning about potential consequences in case they try to copy your invention. You can also market your invention as being innovative once you have this status. While your patent is pending, your application will be reviewed by the Patent Office.

Arm yourself with as much information as you can find if you feel you have a marketable invention. Taking the required steps to protect your creation will ensure you retain all the necessary rights.

If you need help with patents, 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, Stripe, and Twilio.