How to Patent an Idea

Find Out How to Properly Patent Your Idea in the United States


Do you have a brilliant and an outstanding idea in your mind, followed by the threat that someone may take it away from you and make use of it before you could apply it? Then you are probably wondering how to quickly patent your idea. A patent is a form of intellectual property and will prevent your ideas from being used without your consent.

Be careful to never disclose your invention to any friend or any person without proper protections. If you share your invention or idea with someone else and do not have proper legal protections in place, you are actually authorizing others to use your idea.

What Exactly is a Patent

Patents are protections for inventors who properly file, so that the patented invention cannot be used or sold by others for a definite time. You, as inventor, are not protected by a patent useless it is approved by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”). This process is very complex and also takes time. It is highly suggested, and in the inventor’s best interest, to get a patent lawyer in order to get through all the paperwork of the patent. A patent attorney will ensure that your application is completed correctly and includes all the proper legal claims that are required by the USPTO.

Patent protection helps keep your inventions safe from others and you possess ownership of the particular patented idea. If someone needs to work on your idea, it will require proper permission from you. However, you reserve complete rights to sell your idea at your own price for partial or full use of the idea. If someone uses it without your permission and approval, you have right to sue the person in a court of law. This is also known as intellectual property infringement.

It is therefore recommended that you always get patent protection for your ideas as this protection may lead you towards more opportunities to accelerate your invention (and business) and keep competitors from stealing your ideas. If you are in the process of developing an invention, you should learn about invention patents and employee rights.

Steps to Getting a Patent on Your Own Without an Attorney

To many people, patenting their invention seems to be more trouble than it is worth. It seems like a lot of paperwork and legal procedures. This is however a misconception. While filing for a patent application is not something to be done in one afternoon, there are specific steps that you can follow. As long as you have your invention ready, here are the steps you can take to get a United States patent. In fact, you do not need a legal expert to help you navigate the way to your patent, it is just highly recommended if you are serious about your ideas. Though your patent may get approved, it is possible it still will not be fully protected.

1. Record Every Step of Your Invention

This step requires you to record everything concerning your invention including what inspired you to do it, why you made the product, how you did it and how long it took. In addition to this, record diagrams of the original product and any later modifications. Where necessary include dates and have your signature and two others on each entry. All of this information helps to prove the originality of your invention and make the patent application process successful. You can even build a prototype to increase your chances of success.

2. Check Whether Your Idea is Eligible for a Patent

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has a number of conditions that an idea must meet before it is granted patent protection. Most importantly, your idea must be new and different from any other before. It also must have some practical use, not be an abstract idea, not be a law of nature, and you must show how it works.

3. Determine the Commercial Viability of Your Idea

Not all ideas can be turned into money making ventures. Even a good one may not turn out to be a great commercial business. So before you invest your money, time and effort into applying for a patent, check whether your idea has any chance of succeeding commercially.

To do this you will need to write down a business plan and most importantly, do some market research. A business plan will help determine if a profitable business model is possible. With market research you will be able to predict the demand for your product and thus probable sales. It also helps in refining your target customers and weighing the competition, if any.

4. Do a Patent Search to Ensure that the Idea Does Not Already Exist

There are already thousands of other patents and so there is a chance that you could be infringing on another person’s patent. To avoid this, do a thorough search for other patents similar to yours.

The best place to start is the internet; it contains tons of information containing recent and past inventions. You should also pay the USPTO site a visit. Alternatively, find a nearby Patent and Trademark Depository Library and go through the records there.

Before starting the search, understand that it is a time consuming process but an extremely important one to the patent application. Also, you may during your search inventions in the same area as yours. Let this not discourage you from filing for patent protection. If you can show how your product is new and different, you can still be granted a patent.

5. Create and File Your Application with the USPTO

Now that you are ready to kick off the official application process, you need to determine exactly what kind of patent you need. There are utility patents, design patents and plant patents. The one you choose depends on your invention.

After you have chosen which type of patent to apply for, you still need to decide whether to file for a provisional patent application which offers temporary protection or a non provisional patent application. There are, of course, other more specific steps to follow during the actual patent application filing. Again, USPTO’s website has all the information you need.

Once you have successfully filed for patent protection, the only thing left is to wait for the USPTO to either reject or accept your application. If it is rejected you can reapply or appeal. If your idea is not eligible for patent protection you can still protect it through other means like trademarks, copyrights, or by declaring it to be a trade secret.

File a Patent Application for Your Idea Properly

There are three major parts to obtaining a new patent which are explained in further detail below:

  1. Find out if your idea is patentable or has been already patented
  2. Determine which type of patent you will need to file
  3. File the proper application forms for your patent with the USPTO (and/or Internationally) (USPTO Patent FAQ)

The first step in the patenting process is to determine whether your idea is patentable or not. You must do a search to find out if your idea, invention, product, process, or design has already been patented or otherwise disclosed. Then you need to figure out the answers to the following questions:

  • Is your idea novel?
  • Is it nonobvious?
  • Is your invention useful?

All abstract ideas, natural processes, and phenomenon are not patentable, even if they are useful. However, if it is relevant to some machine work, process, literature, music, then it is patentable. Moreover, your idea should be non-obvious in nature and publicly presentable/non-offensive. If there is someone who could, by his/her knowledge, have thought what you have invented, then it is also not patentable or non-obvious.

The second step is to find out what type of patent you wish to file. In this step you might wish to (and we recommend you) get counsel from a registered patent attorney. The use of an attorney, or patent agent, is going to ease your strain. They will complete all of the necessary paperwork and will make all the registration processes much easier and understandable for you.

Get information on patenting an ideaOnce you are ready to file for an application, you must be clear about the three main categories of patents. The first major category is utility patents, also known as “patents for invention.” They are granted for the invention of any new and useful process, machinery, engineering, etc. Utility patents are the most common patents in the United States. In fact, 90% of the patents issued by the USPTO in recent years have been utility patents.

The second category involves the patent for Designs. If your idea is related to a shape, ornament, design, look, etc., then it is patentable under this category.

The last category is Plant Patents, when someone invents reproduction of new varieties of any plant.

In step three, you must determine what application you are going to file and how you are going to complete it. It is important in this step to review all types of patent applications, view templates, samples, or examples of other patents that are similar to yours, and talk to a patent attorney or patent agent to get a full understanding of each type of application and what they entail.

Provisional Patent Application (PPA): The inventor may apply for provisional patent protection. It is generally applicable for a period up to 12 months. After the 12 months, the inventor needs to apply for a non-provisional patent. A non-provisional patent provides protection of the invention within the United States for the period from 14 to 20 years depending upon the nature of invention.

This application requires that the invention be described, explained how to make and use it, and include a drawing of the product or invention itself. You can no longer claim the PPA filling date after one year if you do not file a RPA.

Regular Patent Application (RPA): The third strategy is to apply for an international patent protection. The owner of the idea is allowed to submit a filing for patent protection in any of the single approved international languages with one patent at a time. This will protect the patent within the PTC (Patent Treaty Countries) of the world at the same time. Make sure before filing your application for registration, you get a digital certificate from the USPTO’s website. This will guarantee your application is safe.

Many documents will be required while registering online, including the statement of your invention, its applications, whether useful or not, and the oath that it only belongs to you and you have not stolen it from any other who used it prior to you. We recommend these documents to be in PDF format and easily portable. A special and unique code and reference number will be provided to you for reference-keeping and interaction with the USPTO. Now you are ready to fill out the online application form by authorizing it via entering a special code.

At the end of the process, the patent application fee shall be displayed on the screen. After you complete the boxes carefully in the fee section, it is followed by two options: “pay now” or “pay later”. If it is paid on the spot, you will be required to enter a valid credit card number with sufficient balance. On the other hand, choosing “pay later” will require the fee to be deposited by midnight of the same day, failure to which you will be charged an extra fee.

Now you must wait; your application must be reviewed by the examiners of the USPTO. If it is approved, then you will have to deposit the requisite fee depending on the length of the protection period. Otherwise, on rejection of application, you have one chance to appeal for re-consideration.