Do you want credit for that great new idea of yours? Inventors need protection for their ideas and that protection comes in the form of a patent. If you’re ready to make things official, you’ll need to know how to patent an idea.
Though it may seem like an intimidating process initially, learning how to file a patent isn’t rocket science. To learn more about how to get a patent, check out these five important steps.
1. Decide Which Kind of Patent You Need
Patent and trademark ownership is serious legal stuff, so understand what you’re filing. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, also known as USPTO, offers three kinds of patents.
These three patents are:
- Utility, which will protect a useful technology or real-world invention
- Provisional, which is a temporary, one-year patent (patent-pending) that allows for changes to made to the invention
- Design, which protects ornamental, not functional, designs
You must go with a patent that is appropriate for your invention or situation.
2. Document All of Your Steps
From the very first idea to the end result, keep a close record of your invention. This is absolutely essential in proving that the idea was yours from start to finish.
Be detailed in your documentation. Keeping a notebook that is somewhat formal is the best way to track your thought process and steps. However, any forms will suffice, from photo documentation to a sketchbook.
Documentation details the process of “reduction to practice.” This process is the development of the invention past just an idea.
3. Keep It Confidential
To file for a patent, your idea must be unique. Disclosing your concept to others could compromise your ability to obtain a patent on your invention.
While the U.S. gives a one-year grace period to inventors after they have publicly disclosed their idea, other countries aren’t so generous. You instantly lose patent rights upon disclosure. It’s important to file your patent so it’s already pending before you go public.
4. Do a Thorough Patent Search
Your patent will be limited by other ideas and inventions. It’s crucial to thoroughly research ideas similar to yours to make sure it’s a novel invention.
This can be done by reading through documentation of inventions and publications of ideas. You can also use an online patent search, putting keywords to work so you can make sure your idea is the first of its kind.
Even after diligent research, you are somewhat at the mercy of a patent examiner at the USPTO. Patent advisors can help. It may benefit you to learn more about this patent advisor advantage before you file.
5. File Your Patent Application
Your final step will be to file a patent application. You can do this yourself or you can hire a patent attorney or agent.
Hiring someone can safeguard you against costly mistakes that can compromise your patent. Your invention description must be highly detailed and cover all bases.
You can still tackle patent applications on your own, however. The best way to do this is by filing online for provisional applications through the USPTO’s website or with an online service that files the patent for you. Provisional applications aren’t formality-heavy like utility patent applications.
Understanding How to Patent an Idea
Knowing the basics of how to patent an idea ensures you won’t leave out critical steps when filing your patent application.
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