Tool Patents

A tool patent is a type of utility patent that an inventor would apply for if he or she created a new tool. A utility patent is one of a number of patents one can apply for at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). A famous example of a tool patent is the safety razor, which King Camp Gillette patented in 1904.

In order for your tool to be patentable, it must meet a few requirements. It must be:

  • New
  • Useful
  • Non-obvious

The patent should describe the tool and the problem it helps solve. An applicant can look at prior patents to see what is already out there.

Starting the Patent Application Process

When someone has an idea for an invention, or has an actual prototype of an invention, many people first think about how they are going to market and sell the product. However, this is not the best place to start, and may end up costing you thousands of dollars down the road.

Instead, the first thing an inventor should do is ask whether his product is patentable. Hiring a patent attorney could be incredibly useful in this situation. If the inventor truly has a unique product, he or she should seek protection for that product in the form of a patent. The inventor has two options available to him. He or she can either file a full patent, or if that is cost-prohibitive, he or she could alternatively file a provisional patent.

provisional patent, if done correctly, essentially acts as a placeholder for a future patent. It allows the inventor to work on his product and full patent application for up to one year. During that year, it maintains a “patent pending” status. By itself, a provisional patent will never become a full patent. If the inventor fails to file a full utility patent within one year, he or she loses any rights to the product.

How to File a Utility Patent for a Tool

First, an applicant should conduct a prior art and infringement search. A prior art search can help you determine whether or not your tool meets the first requirement (newness) above. If there is another tool that already exists and is similar, or the same to your tool, it might not be patentable. However, it could also reveal that the previously patented tool is now in the “public domain,” which means it cannot be patented again.

An infringement search will be more in-depth than a prior art search. It is the duty of an inventor to ensure that his product is not infringing upon an existing patented tool. If there is already an existing protected tool patent, a subsequent inventor using the same or similar tool may be sued for infringement. In that case, the inventor may have to pay money damages to the patent owner.

If you are conducting your own prior art and infringement search, you can visit the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s website at http://www.uspto.gov/.

Special Tool Patent Database Search

The Directory of American Tool and Machinery Patents (DATAMP) is a volunteer-maintained database that specifically collects machinery and tool patents. This database is meant to be a collection of information on antique tools and woodworking patents so that inventors can easily find information about the tools. Currently, DATAMP only maintains American patents.  

Hiring a Patent Agent

For any inventor, whether he or she is an experienced inventor or a first timer, it is highly advisable that they hire a patent agent or patent attorney. Filing a patent application must follow a certain legal process. The expertise that these specialized agents possess is invaluable, as they can draft a patent application that meets all federal requirements. While an inventor might be able to explain his or her invention in layman’s terms, a patent application requires a level of description and detail that a patent agent or attorney is used to. The “specification” part of the application can be especially complex, so a patent agent or attorney can help describe your invention in legal or scientific terms.

If you need help filing a tool or utility 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, Stripe, and Twilio.