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How to File a Patent for Your Invention

How to File a Patent for Your Invention

Inventors are highly prized in any market, since their work is often the focal point that other infrastructure, marketing, and production coalesce around. But as an inventor, whether in a startup or independently, it is important to make the most of any invention you create.

This means protecting your original work legally. In this article, we look at one of the primary tools at the disposal of any inventor: the patent, and how to file one.


patent pending


Why File a Patent?

Patents provide a level of economic security and market edge for their holders. They are specifically designed to incentivize invention and innovation, offering an avenue to significant potential profits for an invention that is patented quickly and correctly.

Patents fall under the category of intellectual property (IP) law, and are one of four kinds of IP protection, the others being copyrights, trade secrets, and trademarks.

How to File a Patent for Your Invention

Copyrights cover original creative work, trade secrets involve confidential information that benefits a company competitively, and trademarks protect branding and brand identity. However, patents may be the most powerful intellectual property tool.

Holding a patent grants a twenty-year monopoly (in the United States) for the development, production, and sale of the invention in question. This means that no other companies can compete via imitation for this time period, allowing the best possible version of the invention to be produced and sold, gaining more profits by being a unique entity in the market.

Filing a patent can make the difference between being swallowed by competitors who have the infrastructure to take your idea and produce it more cheaply or more quickly, and having the time and resources to perfect your invention and get rewarded for its genesis. Sure, the patent filing process is time consuming and costs money, but the potential benefits are immense.

Is Your Invention Eligible?

The United States Patent & Trademark Office, or USPTO, outlines what is and is not eligible for patenting according to the patent statute codified in federal law.

Eligible areas include a process, machine, “article of manufacture” (manufactured product), composition of matter, or “improvement of any of the above,” as well as specific designations for unique plant patents and design patents that govern the nonfunctional design and aesthetic components of a product.

So, if your invention happens to be a machine or a composition of matter, is it automatically eligible for a patent? In short, no. There are additional requirements that must be met for patent eligibility. These boil down to usefulness, novelty, and non-obviousness.

To have any chance of being granted a patent, the invention in question must be useful. Usefulness here can be very broad and does not only encompass crucial or definitive needs and benefits. Things like entertainment and enjoyment can also qualify as uses.

Novelty refers to being sufficiently unique and new in order to deserve a patent. This can often be an issue of contention, with gray areas existing between what constitutes a slight tweak or variation upon an existing idea versus a truly novel improvement. Lastly, being non-obvious may seem quite easy, but this determination usually helps to weed out inventions that are not really inventions but obvious combinations of previously existing factors.

Before delving into the patent search and filing process, it may be a good idea to seek out a qualified patent attorney or law firm to determine what the best course of action is, as a professional will better know how your invention might fare.


steps to become a patent attorney

Picture Courtesy: Taylorip

The Patent Search

Now that you’ve determined your invention may be patent eligible, it’s time to hone in on the “novelty” factor, and see if someone else has beaten you to the punch. The next step is the patent search.

Patent searches can be arduous, but they serve two key purposes: eligibility determinations and marketability assessments. By looking to see if anyone else owns a patent that would make your invention no longer novel, you can save yourself the time and cost of filing a patent application that would get rejected anyway.

Patent searches also give an indication of how marketable something might be. If very little competition turns up, that could either be a sign of not enough demand, or of little competition and being the first to a good idea.

To begin patent searching, a good starting place is Google Patents, a search tool provided by google to search in plain text many patent documents and related articles. As you narrow down the field in question, you can proceed to the USPTO patent search tool to test specific functional keywords that relate to your invention, such as “genetic editing system” or “digital braking technology” and determine its classification.

If you have determined that your patent application would not conflict with any existing patents, it’s time to move on to the application.

The Application Process

Patent applications are incredibly long and detailed. They must contain precise descriptions of every component of the process or invention you are attempting to patent, so that a professional in the field could recreate the invention.

The provisional application itself contains both legal sections determining sole or shared ownership, as well as sections for text details and drawings/figures of the invention. You will have to demonstrate all the aspects of eligibility: usefulness, uniqueness, and non-obviousness.

The ins and outs of a full patent application are too intricate to fully explore in this article, but suffice to say the job should be done alongside a trained legal professional. According to J.D. Houvener, a Charlotte patent attorney, patent applications are some of his most enjoyable assignments:

“Getting to work with professionals and inventors to really look at what their product can offer, and streamlining their path to the market, can be hugely gratifying. Patent applications can be intimidating, but by working together as legal and technical experts, my clients and I can be primed for success.”

Lastly, you will have to submit your application. This can be done on the corresponding USPTO page, which gives simple and straightforward directions on how to proceed with the final electronic submission.

About the Author: Tori Lutz is a recent graduate from Florida State University and current student at Columbia University. Her goal is to go to law school in the next couple of years to finish up her education and become an IP attorney.

In Summary

The patent process is not short or easy. But patenting an invention in the right timeframe can set the foundation for a successful business. The temporary monopoly offered by a granted patent enables inventors to be rewarded for their work and bring their product to market.

After determining your eligibility and your marketability prospects, proceed with a patent search. Then, put together your provisional application, and finally follow the necessary steps laid out by the USPTO.

Make sure to consult a qualified law firm or attorney to guide you through this process; that will save you a lot of trouble and increase your chances of approval. Best of luck, and happy patenting!

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