Updated November 25, 2020:

Toy patents can't entirely protect the toys you invent, but they do give you the right to sue those who use or sell your ideas without your permission. Toys make billions of dollars per year, and they provide jobs for people all over the world. Toy patents help large companies and innovative individuals get the compensation they deserve for their inventions. Patenting your toy is easy, and it secures your future rights when you decide to market it.

How to Find Out If a Toy Is Eligible for Patent

Toys need to be unique, nonobvious, and useful to be eligible for patents. Since most toys are simple and low-tech, nonobviousness is the most challenging requirement to meet. Most toy designs are filed as utility patents, and they expire 20 years after the original application filing date.

Patents vs. Trademarks 

Patents are for new or improved inventions, while trademarks are for one or more slogans, words, names, symbols or devices used to identify the product. For example, you could invent a unique doll. You would need a patent for the actual toy and a trademark for the name or the label to prevent forgeries. Patents and trademarks require separate fees, so you should decide which one you'll need first if you have a small budget.

Making sure that no pre-existing technology exists that's similar or identical to the toy technology you want to patent is important. You should look for abstracts applications by using the World Intellectual Property Organization's PatentScope search engine

Patenting a Toy Idea

To patent your toy idea, write a one-page abstract that describes the functions of the toy, how to use it, and how to build it. Use text and drawings to provide evidence that your invention is unique, non-obvious, and useful. A skilled technician should be able to manufacture the toy with only the description as a source.

If you draft your patent claims too broadly, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, also called the USPTO, will tell you to amend them or reject your application. If your patent claims are too narrow, another person or company can copy your invention without infringing on your patent. To avoid these problems, ask a professional to help you draft your application.

Submitting Patent Forms

After you create your claim, here are the steps you should take to submit a patent form:

  1. Contact the United States Patent and Trademark Office online to get the forms you need.
  2. Fill out a cover sheet, an application data sheet, and a fee transmittal form with the basic information about your invention that the government requires.
  3. Save digital copies of all your documents.
  4. Submit your application online with EFS-Web,  the USPTO's electronic filing system.
  5. Pay your filing fee online with a credit or debit card.
  6. Answer any queries or modification requests from the USPTO.

The fee varies with the type of patent and your filing method. Small entities that haven't sold or licensed rights to an invention before filing can sometimes qualify for a lower fee. Applicants usually receive several modification requests from the USPTO. For example, it might tell you to make your patent claim narrower or broader. You can respond by submitting changes or by explaining why your application is adequate.

Marketing Your Product

Once your patent is approved, you can use the USPTO's Official Gazette to publish your invention and market it to manufacturers. That way, you won't need to spend time and effort selling your new toy to many individual companies. You can market your toy before your patent is approved since filing helps to protect you from intellectual property theft. Remember, a patent can't protect your invention completely. It just gives you the right to sue anyone who infringes on your invention.

Tips for Protecting Your Toy Designs

Use these essential tips to protect your ideas:

Using several utility and design patents lets you shield the looks of your toys, their features, and their construction. You can also use copyrights for works of art like paintings, sculptures, photographs, short stories, the appearance of board games, and the way characters look in video games.

If you need help with toy patents, you can post your legal need or post your job 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.