Updated October 28, 2020:

Utility Patent Example: What Is It?

Utility patent examples can be helpful tools for completing either a non-provisional or a provisional patent application. There are many of both types of patent application templates available online for public use.

A utility patent protects an inventor's intellectual property. It is the most common type of patent issued. It protects the way an invention works. Anyone who creates an entirely new machine, process, chemical compound, manufactured product, material composition, or method can apply for a utility patent. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) also issues utility patents for functional improvements to existing inventions. These must be considered non-obvious, useful, and new.

Utility patents are further subdivided into three categories based on the invention's function:

  • Electrical
  • Chemical
  • Mechanical

If you are interested in having your invention patented, you first must make sure that the idea is different from any other patents already on file. This process involves an extensive patent search. Online tools such as Google Patents and the USPTO database are free to use.

Once you've completed your utility patent search and have determined that your invention is unique, you will need to prepare and file a patent application with the USPTO. Following a utility patent example can help.

Why Is a Utility Patent Example Important?

Many inventors trying to patent their intellectual properties start with a provisional patent application. Unfortunately, provisional patent applications are not available online because they are not official patent applications reviewed by the USPTO. So it can be difficult to know what to include in your provisional utility patent application.

The good news is, since provisional patent applications are never made public, you can be sure your patent application stays secret until you file the non-provisional application. Provisional applications merely serve as placeholders to give inventors "patent pending" status. Meanwhile, they can file the official non-provisional patent application.

Here are the main sections of a provisional patent application:

  • A written description of the invention
  • Illustrated figures showing what the invention looks like
  • A cover sheet or transmittal letter that details the inventor's contact information

Because utility patent applications are difficult to get approved, only about half of them become granted patents. Using a utility patent example to craft your provisional patent application will help prepare you for submitting the non-provisional application within one year from the first filing date. Templates can also help you better define the scope of your invention.

Reasons to Consider Not Using a Utility Patent Example

Because a provisional utility patent application is not a formal patent request, it's cheaper to file than a non-provisional application and can be done without legal assistance. In many cases, though, the provisional application isn't even necessary.

In fact, provisional applications only became available in 1995 when the USPTO first allowed them as a way to hold your place in line. If you're prepared to file the official non-provisional patent application and already have the funds to do so, skipping the provisional step is probably a good idea. If you're not sure whether you need to file the provisional patent application, you should discuss your options with an UpCounsel lawyer.

The biggest downside of using a utility patent example to draw up your own application comes from a lack of experience. Unless you are prepared to do the research and put extra time and effort into your utility patent application, you could end up overlooking information and having your patent application rejected. This is why hiring an experienced patent lawyer from the beginning is generally a better bet than following a patent application example.

If you've decided that you can skip the provisional application step and go straight to the non-provisional utility patent application, there are some things you should know. First, you should never file a non-provisional application without the help of a lawyer. Unlike the provisional patent application, the official non-provisional application is complex and easy to mess up. In addition to a description of the invention, a non-provisional patent application must include the following:

  • Detailed drawings
  • An oath or declaration and claim to the invention
  • The application datasheet
  • A specification with at least one claim
  • Required fees, which include costs for the patent search, filing, and patent examination
  • Under certain circumstances, an amino acid sequence listing

These are the non-provisional application's basic elements, but there are many other elements that could be required depending on your type of invention or idea. It can be almost impossible for most inventors to anticipate the information they need to include without the help of a lawyer.

The claims listed on the application are considered the legal part of the patent, as they define the scope of the patent's protection. Think of claims as similar to gold mine claims. These claims are difficult to read and tend to look like a long run-on sentence. Unless you have experienced help in writing the non-provisional patent application, particularly the claims portion, you could end up with a weak patent protection.

Patent examiners reviewing your claim will perform a patent title search to examine any similar patents. Since examiners find similar patents more than 90 percent of the time, your examiner may issue an "Office Action" that rejects the claim. However, the examiner will inform you why the claim was rejected so you can modify and resubmit it.

Reasons to Consider Using a Utility Patent Example

Most inventors who do file their own provisional utility patent applications do so to save money while obtaining the "patent pending" protection they need. A provisional application protects your discovery or invention and gives you time to decide whether to pursue the patenting process. And since you have a full year from the provisional filing date, you have extra time to get the money required to pay for the non-provisional patent application.

When going the provisional application route without legal assistance, utility patent application examples are necessary. The internet is a great source for provisional patent examples. Free downloads and tutorials ensure that you cover all your bases with the less-formal provisional application.

Important Points to Consider

  • When writing your utility patent application, it's important to name the correct inventor or inventors on the application. If more than one person has contributed to the invention, all may be considered joint inventors. However, to be considered an inventor, a person must have made a contribution to the inventive idea itself. Unless otherwise stated, joint inventors of a U.S. patent share joint ownership and are granted equal protection rights regardless of how much each one contributed. Each inventor can also use or license the invention without permission from the other.
  • Before the USPTO grants a patent, the application is examined to see whether the invention meets the requirements for being new, useful, and non-obvious. The invention must also be properly described in detail. However, the USPTO is not infallible. Even after a patent is issued, the invention's validity can still be challenged. This can happen in court if the patent owner tries to enforce the patent, resulting in the USPTO reexamining the patent.
  • Utility patents last for 20 years from the filing date, but paying periodic maintenance fees is required. Failure to pay these fees could result in losing your patent.
  • Utility patent applications are published 18 months from their filing date. The contents of the USPTO's file are made public from that publication date. You can have such publication delayed until a patent is granted if you can certify that no foreign application will be filed in a country that doesn't publish pending patent applications.

Deadline for Filing Your Patent Application

There is no deadline for filing a provisional patent application; you simply submit it when you want to obtain a "patent pending" status. Once you do file the provisional application, however, the clock starts ticking on the non-provisional application date.

A provisional patent application gives you a priority date by which the official patent application must be received. That priority date is 12 months from the provisional filing date. If you're not sure whether you can file the more expensive and complex non-provisional application within that 12-month period, it's better to wait, as long as you don't have any competition. But since a provisional patent does not give you legal protection against infringement, you must consider what competition may exist.

What Happens When You Use a Design Patent Example vs. a Utility Patent Example?

A design patent is not the same thing as a utility patent. Utility patents include new or improved ideas, processes, machines, and manufacturers. Design patents protect a device's ornamental design.

For example, design patents can include a specific IKEA chair, a Manolo Blahnik shoe, or a Keith Haring wallpaper. These are not brand-new utility inventions, but they are fresh designs. This means that you can get a design patent for something as simple as a computer desktop icon.

Trying to follow a design patent application example for an invention that falls into the utility category is a mistake. Design patents are purely aesthetic, not functional. They prohibit others from using or selling your unique design.

There is another type of lesser-used patent: the plant patent. Plant patents protect genetically modified seeds, hybrids, plant mutants, and newly discovered seeds.

Be sure you know which type of patent you need before going ahead with the filing process.

Common Mistakes When Using a Utility Patent Example

The biggest mistake when writing your own utility patent application from an example is not doing enough research. You need to fully understand the patent process. You should also download and compare several utility patent application examples and templates to be sure you cover all the required information.

If you are overwhelmed by the process, your biggest mistake could be not consulting an intellectual property lawyer. Hiring a lawyer to file your patent application doesn't have to be expensive. It's the best way to be confident that you're approaching the patent process in the right way.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I file my own utility patent application?

Yes, you can complete and file your own provisional patent application. The non-provisional patent application, however, is a more complex document that requires an expert eye. Since applying for a utility patent is a lengthy process that involves considerable amounts of money and time, hiring a lawyer to assist you is, in most cases, the best choice.

  • Why are provisional patent applications cheaper?

A provisional patent application doesn't require any formal drawings or claims. Because of this, you can save a lot of money on not having to pay for professional patent drawings. You can also save legal costs by not including claims, although there are benefits to including at least one claim from the start. When you file the non-provisional application, it's highly recommended that you have a patent lawyer fill it out with all the necessary claims.

The costs associated with hiring a patent lawyer vary by location, expertise, and the complexity of your invention. On average, though, you can expect the following ballpark figures:

  1. Simple inventions, such as an umbrella, board game, toothbrush, etc.: $7,500 to $9,000
  2. Minimally complex inventions, such as a lawnmower, cellphone, power hand tool, etc.: $9,000 to $10,000
  3. Moderately complex inventions, such as a riding lawn mower, RFID device, etc.: $10,000 to $12,000
  4. Relatively complex inventions, such as robotics, a Segway, etc.: $12,000 to $15,000
  5. Highly complex inventions, such as medical equipment, satellite technologies, networking systems, etc.: $15,000+
  • What types of inventions can I patent?

Utility patents cover all sorts of intellectual property, from manufactured products and devices to new software or methods. Typically, what most would view as a new invention falls under the utility patent category.

  • What information do I include in my utility patent application?

The information included in your patent application depends on whether you're filing a provisional or non-provisional application. A provisional application is not reviewed by the USPTO. It is essentially a shorter version of the non-provisional application. It acts as a placeholder for you in the line of patent applicants. Your official patent application should include the inventor's name, a general description of the invention, any prior art, claims, contact information, drawings, and fees. Be sure to discuss your non-provisional application with a lawyer before filing.

  • Are there reduced government fees for small businesses?

Yes. A "small entity" is entitled to a 50 percent reduction in government fees. A "micro-entity" can obtain a 75 percent fee reduction.

If you need help finding a utility patent example and want legal assistance filing your patent, post a question on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to the site, each of whom are from top schools such as Yale Law and Harvard Law. Many also have backgrounds working with companies like Menlo Ventures, Airbnb, and Google.