Where Do I Patent My Idea?

 “Where do I patent my idea” is a common question among inventors. If filing a domestic patent application, you’ll want to file with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Thousands of inventors have navigated the patent system on their own and were successful in doing so. You don’t necessarily need a qualified attorney to assist you in the process. Some steps are easy whereas others are difficult. But with some research and self-training, you can file a patent application on your own.

What Is a Patent?

A patent is form of Intellectual Property (IP). It is a right granted to the owner of an invention that protects from or prevents others exploiting the patented invention.

How Much Does a Patent Cost?

Trying to ascertain the costs associated with patenting an invention in the United States can be rather difficult as it depends on the technology involved. It is important to understand that the act of patenting an invention can bring challenges. Your invention must be unique, and due to the strict measures imposed by the United States Supreme Court, United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, as well as other regulations imposed from the USPTO, have made it difficult to have an invention patented. However, with that being said, it is easier to obtain a patent today than it was five to ten years ago. Although it may be easier, it is certainly not cheaper.

In order to better understand the costs associated with patenting your invention, you should consider the following:

  • Discuss with a patent attorney, or even analyze for yourself, the costs associated with preparing and filing a patent application with the USPTO.
  • Consider the type of invention you have. How complex is it? If complex, the process may be costlier and more time-consuming. If you have a simple invention, however, the patent review may not take as long, and thus, will be cheaper.
  • If you are going to receive a patent, then you will be required to fill out a non-provisional patent application.
  • Government filing fees of $730 are the minimum costs associated with patent applications for small entities.
  • The fees associated with micro entities are generally at least $400.
  • Professional drawings, which are highly recommended, will typically add another $300-$500 depending on the complexity of the drawing.
  • Don’t forget — if you hire an attorney to assist you in the application process, you’ll be responsible for legal fees, which won’t come cheap with patent applications. The more complex your invention is, the higher the legal fees will be.
  • You’ll want your application to be as strong as it can be in order to be successful in your patenting your invention. Therefore, taking the time to hire an attorney and a professional to draw your invention on paper (for the patent examiner to review so he or she can better understand your invention and the economic purpose of it), is important.
  • Generally, individual investors may want to find ways to cut corners financially. However, it is important to note that a patent application is not straightforward. There are many intricacies involved in the application, and a strong application usually involves an attorney’s assistance.

Steps for Filing a Patent Application On Your Own

While it is advisable to hire a patent attorney to assist you throughout the process, you might choose to go at it alone. Filing a patent on your own will cost a lot less, but be mindful that it takes a lot of time. It may take even more time for you as you lack the professional knowledge. So, if you do choose to do it on your own, keep in mind the following steps:

  • Step 1. Keep a record of your invention, making sure to document all of your steps and efforts. This could include a diagram of your invention and an explanation of how you came up with it.
  • Step 2. Ensure that your invention qualifies for patent protection- you cannot, for example, get just an idea patented. You have to be able to explain and show how your invention works, how it is different from previous inventions, and how it is completely new.
  • Step 3. Assess the commercial value of your invention, for example, by undertaking market research.
  • Step 4. Run a patent search to make sure that your invention is different from or is an improvement of earlier inventions.
  • Step 5. File the application.

Other Kinds of Patents

If you are not ready to take on the patent process, but still want to protect your invention, then you can apply for other types of patents as follows:

1. Utility Patent

Inventors can submit a draft patent application and subsequently convert it into a utility application. Generally, it takes just about a year to complete. More specifically, utility patents protect specific types of things, such as machines, systems, or methods.

The cost of filing a utility application generally ranges between $8,000-$9,000. However, more complex claims (i.e. chemical, biotechnology) can cost up to roughly $16,000. Mechanical patent applications could be around $12,000. Complex electrical/computer patents could cost up to $14,000. Keep in mind that after the application is filed, it may require numerous amendments to perfect the application, which costs additional fees each time, ranging from $2,200 to $3,500 depending on the complexity and type of invention.

2. Design Patent

Such a patent protects only aesthetic design choices, including the design of manufactured products, the shape of various medical devices, and the layout of user interfaces. Someone can have both a utility and design patent. For example, someone who invents a machine to be used to make a specific product, having designed that machine in a specific way, can apply for a utility patent for the piece of machinery itself and a design patent for the design of the machine. Notably, the review for a design or utility patent is much shorter and much less expensive.

3. Provisional Patent

However, instead of utility patent, a provisional patent application or even a trademark may be better suited for your invention. There are two tools for inventors that aren’t too costly, including provisional patents and trademarks. A provisional patent application is one that is filed with the USPTO and establishes an early filing date but doesn’t equate to a patent application unless and until the applicant files a non-provisional patent application within the 12 months subsequent to filing the non-provisional patent. A provisional patent application is both less detailed and less costly.

Immediately after you file your provisional patent application, you can indicate that your invention is patent pending on any prototype. During this time period, you can also still file a utility or design patent. But, you have 12 months to develop your product even further and turn your non-provisional patent application into a formal provisional patent application.

There are two things to be mindful of when filling out a provisional patent application, which include:

  1. Avoid using restrictive language in the description of your invention, i.e. “essential,” “necessary,” etc.
  2. Be broad (while also being precise) in your description.

4. Trademark

Another route for inventors to go down is to have an invention trademarked.

Each and every product invented has a specific name. Once you begin using the name with customers, the invention will become synonymous with its name.

Therefore, you should trademark the name of your invention.

If you need help applying for a 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.