Updated July 13, 2020:

Register an Idea Patent

If you want to register an idea patent, there will be several steps you will need to take. Coming up with an idea for an invention can make a huge change in your life as well as the lives of those who could benefit from your product. The key is to patent your invention so that you are the only one who can see it through to production.

Protecting Ideas

If you have an idea for an invention, you may think you already have taken the first step toward getting a patent. While having a great idea is the first thing you need for an invention, there are several steps you will need to take in order to protect it from being copied by your competition. There is no legal way to keep someone from copying your idea for an invention before you have the opportunity to patent it yourself.

You can obtain copyrights and patents for your physical expressions or products you have already invented, but you are not able to protect your ideas with either of these methods. Without some type of protection in place, there is no way to stop someone from using a similar idea to yours that leads to a new product on the market.

However, this is no cause for despair. Do not make the mistake of giving up on an idea for a potentially great product because you fear it will not be protected. You just need to take some steps that will flesh out what you want to create in a way that makes it more than just an idea on paper. You need to begin thinking about how to turn your idea into a tangible invention, as inventions can be patented and protected by law.

One common misconception that many people make is that they are going to make a ton of money on an idea alone. In very few cases, individuals have sold his or her ideas to an industry leader who then took over the invention and manufacturing process. Keep in mind that this is incredibly rare, so be sure that you do not get your hopes up in this manner. In all likelihood, you are going to have to do the legwork to transform your idea into a product.

While ideas are valuable, they are a dime a dozen in the scheme of things. Your idea must be able to transform into something that provides a function for a purpose. More than that, you must specifically detail how your idea can solve a problem and provide that functionality that people need.

At some point, you may find yourself frustrated at being stuck in the idea phase for too long. It is important to not give up, as it is possible that you may already have a great invention right in front of you while not realizing it.

 According to the United States patent laws, you do not have to have a prototype in hand in order to begin the patent application process. You will need to be able to fully explain your idea. Be prepared to explain how your invention will solve a problem for the consumer, and include an outline of its functionality. You can do all of this on paper without building an actual prototype.

Over time, once you have fully fleshed out the initial idea onto paper, you can then work with some three-dimensional designers or illustrators so that you can see what your invention will look like. Before you know it, you will have a tangible piece or proof of your idea that will soon, hopefully, become an amazing, functional invention.

One thing to remember is that you are not going to get rich overnight with the process. In fact, if you thought you were going to be a millionaire just from your idea, you will be sadly misinformed. While your idea may be amazing, there are millions more out there that just have not come to life because of the process you have to go through.

What separates those who stop at the formation of an idea and those who become successful inventors is the fact that they have a strategy in place to turn the idea into something that can be protected legally. If you are having problems getting past just the phase of having an idea, you may want to check out the following resources:

  • Moving From Idea to Patent
  • About the Invention Process
  • One Simple Idea: Turn Your Dreams Into a Licensing Goldmine by Stephen Key of Invent Right

What if what you have is not yet invented, but a story that may fall under copyright provisions? If this is the case, you should begin to draft what your idea is to begin the creation process. You will then have an immediate copyright on this intellectual property. Because you have created it in writing, you are granted a copyright without having to do anything at all. You can simply place the copyright symbol next to it should it be put out into the public domain.

However, should someone infringe on your copyright, you are going to need to register your copyright with the government in order to claim it as yours in court. It is relatively inexpensive to federally copyright your work, typically a fee of $45. In general, you should pay to register your copyright ahead of time to ensure you are protected should you need to bring a lawsuit.

When your idea has turned into an invention, you will need to seek a patent. There are two types of patents you can choose from. Ideally, you should opt to seek both patents for additional protection.

  • Design patents are for inventions with a unique visual appearance.
  • Utility patents are for all other inventions. It breaks down the concepts of the idea and helps create a physical picture of what you intend to create.

Whether you intend to file one or both types of patents, you need to do so as quickly as possible. Once you have a solid idea that you want to patent, you need to develop a plan of action to carry your idea to conception.

Conception was initially the most important aspect where patents were concerned. In the past, the first person to conceive an idea that led to invention received the rights to said invention.

The American Invents Act has changed that concept, however. Beginning in March of 2013, the United States became a first to file country. Simplified, it means that you must file your patent application first in order to claim ownership.

Today, patents, even provisional patents, must be filed as soon as possible to establish your rights as owner of the invention concept.

Filing a Patent Without an Attorney

In many cases, people with genuinely useful ideas for inventions fail to go through with the patent process for a variety of reasons. One significant reason is the fact that attorney’s fees can quickly add up.

What they did not know is that an attorney is not only unnecessary to file a patent, but policies have been put into place to make the process as simple as possible.

It is not an exaggeration to say that thousands of people with inventions have been able to secure their own patents without the assistance of a lawyer. Under federal law, patent examiners at the United States Patent and Trademark Office are required to help those who wish to apply for a patent.

While most aspects of filing for a patent are not difficult, there are parts of the process are a bit complex. However, taking the help from the government and going through the process can help you get the patent you need in order to get your invention to the consumer.

Steps to Filing a Patent Application

Once you are ready to file a patent, you will need to follow a few basic steps. Remember, you do not need to hire a lawyer for this process. There is no legal expertise necessary to get your patent application off the ground. You are only required to follow the specific steps and rules from the USPTO when filing your application. The steps are very simply spelled out for you, so you should have no trouble getting started.

Keep a Careful Record of Your Invention

Another thing you need to keep in mind is to keep solid records of your invention process. You do not need a fancy system to do so; a simple notebook will be sufficient. In your records, you need to thoroughly describe your invention. Include how you came up with the idea and include every single detail that you can think of when writing your description.

You should also sketch out a diagram detailing the invention so you have an idea of what you expect it to look like. You may want to consider having a prototype made, although it is not necessary. When you are keeping records, you should also sign and date every update. You should also have two witnesses sign your documentation as well.

Make Sure Your Invention Qualifies for Patent Protection

You must also keep in mind that when filing a patent, you need to make sure it will actually qualify. Since you cannot patent an idea, you will need to be able to demonstrate that your invention is something new that has never been made before. It will need to be different from anything that is currently invented or already on the market. Your invention cannot be currently for sale or sold before you get a patent.

Assess the Commercial Potential of Your Invention

Before you take the time and energy to file a patent, you must assess the commercial potential of your invention. This means you need to decide whether or not your invention will satisfy a need for a sector of the population.

Applying for a patent will be a major business decision. While you do not need to pay a lawyer to file a patent, you will have to pay around $1500 total in fees, prepared patent drawings, and prototype creation. Before making this investment, you need to test the market to determine whether or not your time, effort, and money are going to pay off in the long run.

You will also need to do a patent search before you can file your application. This step is to prevent you from wasting time and money on filing a patent on an invention that has already been patented. To do this, you will need to file both a United States and foreign patents to see if there are any inventions related to your idea.

It is important that you understand a patent search can take a long time, months or even years in some cases. You can do this on your own, but you can also hire a professional to assist you. Still, you must be fully involved in the patent search because you are the one who knows the most about your invention.

The search should begin on the Internet. Search out some different terms that would relate to your invention. You can also visit the Patent and Trademark Depository Library.

You are certain to find some inventions that are much like yours. That is why it is important to specify in your patent application how your invention is better than what may be similar to it that is already on the market.

Prepare and File an Application With the USPTO

There are a few things to keep in mind when preparing to file a patent with the USPTO. You can file a regular patent application, known as a RPA, or you can file a provisional patent application. The provisional patent application, known as a PPA, is not a true patent, but it does let you claim patent pending status for your invention. Going this route is less expensive and not as much initial legwork as a regular patent.

To file a PPA, you will need to pay a fee of either $65 for micro-entities, $130 for small entities, or $260 for large companies. You will be required to provide a thorough description of your invention as well as a detailed drawing.

Within a year, you will need to file a RPA to secure a true patent on your invention. If you do not, you will not be able to claim your PPA filing date.

To learn more about filing a PPA and why you would want to do so, visit UpCounsel for additional information. We will provide you with a guide to filing a PPA that is simplified and easy to understand. You will get access to all the required forms you need to file your application as well as instructions on each step you need to take.

What You Can Patent and What You Cannot Patent

Regardless of the possibility that your development fits under the law, not all things can be licensed. Figuring out which sorts of creations are protectable will additionally decide whether your thought is an innovation. Creations can't be excessively conceptual.

For instance, if your creation is a numerical equation not fixing to a specific procedure or application, at that point it is not a patentable development. It really needs to enable somebody to settle on a choice, move a machine in this present reality, or generally make something helpful happen.

Developments can't be regular disclosures. In the event that you are angling in the woodlands and force a baffling new fish from the lake then you can't patent it—regardless of the possibility that you are the first to ever discover it. You need to accomplish more than find something to get a patent. You need to sanitize it, change it, or consolidate it as a feature of a greater development.

When you are ready to register an idea 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.