Patents for Dummies

Patents for dummies, referred to as patents for the beginner, will provide you with some entry-level information on how to obtain a patent. You’ll need to have some familiarity with the process itself, as it can be both time-consuming and expensive. Even if you choose to hire a patent attorney to assist, you’ll still want to have some knowledge around the process itself. This way, you can be fully engaged with your patent attorney so the professional can understand your invention in such a way to help you have the best chance at obtaining a patent.

Idea v. Invention

  • Ideas cannot be patented.
  • Ideas must be turned into inventions before they can be protected by a patent.
  • Ideas are the first step toward inventing something. While some inventors may think they only have ideas and not inventions, when in fact, the idea may have already been turned into an invention.
  • You need not have a prototype or working model to patent your invention. All you need are illustrations and descriptions of such illustrations. Remember that it must be very specific and detailed. The more thorough you are in your patent application, the better chance you have at obtaining a patent.
  • Once you’ve crossed the idea stage into the invention stage, you should think about acting on it as quickly as possible. You don’t want others to obtain a patent on that same invention.

Once you have an invention, you’ll want to run a patent search to see if a patent is already protecting that invention. To do this, you’ll visit the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website. The USPTO provides a database to search prior issued patents. This is one of the most important things you should do before filing a patent application. The patent process can be very expensive and the last thing you want to run into is an issue where the invention you are seeking a patent on is already in use.

Another important aspect of the patent search is that you can look through prior issued patents to see how those applications were drafted. For example, if you have a software-related invention, you can run a search on the database to see how successful applications were drafted, what illustrations were provided, etc. That way, you can potentially tailor your application to those prior successful applications.

Keep in mind that your initial patent application is the most critical one. All aspects of your invention must be disclosed in this initial application. Nothing new can be added thereafter. Therefore, you’ll want to take your time running a patent search, documenting your search results while also writing down the dates of your searches.

What You Need to File a Patent

  • Illustrations of the invention, including all components of the invention.

  • Directions on how to use the invention. For example, if you have a particular product, you’ll want to write down the steps on how to use it.

  • Specific details relating to the product, which includes an abstract, background, summary, detailed description, and the advantages of the product. The abstract will be a short summary of the product. The background will include the purpose of the invention along with what problems it solves. The detailed description will have the most amount of information included, detailing the product, its parts, its uses, etc. The advantages will be included in the conclusion section. You’ll also want to identify any potential ramifications.

  • One or more claims, which are narrower versions of the previous claim. For example, your first claim will be broad. The second claim will be a bit narrower. The third will be reduced again. The hope is that the first claim will be accepted, as it is the broadest. In this case, you can have the most legal ground for your invention.

  • You will also need to include the appropriate payment for filing, a self-addressed stamped envelope, a Patent Application Declaration (PAD) form, and an Information Disclosure Statement (ISD). Specifically, the PAD form provides that you are the true inventor. The IDS allows you to add in any other relevant details regarding your invention and application. If you choose to file online, then you need not provide a self-addressed stamped envelope as it will all be filed electronically.

If you need help with filing your patent, 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.