The Business Owner’s Guide to Understanding the Patent Application Process

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Getting your ideas patented can be long and arduous, but it doesn’t have to be an impossible task. If you research and learn more about what you’re doing, you can break down the patent application process into relatively straightforward steps. 

On the other hand, if you feel you are handling too many applications at once, it may be best to use a patent docketing system to ensure you don’t miss anything important. Regardless of how big or small your patent portfolio grows, it helps to know the basic steps of the application process.

Step One: Figure out if you Need a Patent

Not all intellectual property falls under patent law–patents only apply to physical objects or processes. You’ll want to look into copyrights and trademarks for more intangible properties, like ideas, logos, works of art, or literature.

Suppose your intellectual property does indeed fall under the umbrella of patent law. Your first step should be to research the field you’re working in to ensure that your discovery, or something remarkably similar, hasn’t already been patented by someone else. 

If you employ the services of an attorney, they’ll do this search for you, although you are required to inform them of any potential claims that might invalidate your patent if you’re already aware of them.

Step Two: Find the right attorney’s office

While you have the full legal right to file a patent for yourself, employing the services of a professional will make every step of the process substantially easier, allowing you to avoid many unexpected troubles and delays. The most important part of the process is performing the research to find an attorney’s office with a good reputation and plenty of experience.

Once you’ve found an office that fits your needs, their attorneys will confirm that you have a patentable invention and determine the type of patent you should apply for. There are three types of patents, and the requirements to successfully patent your invention are slightly different for each type. 

Utility patents are for new processes, substances, and machinery or significant improvements to existing ones.

Design patents are for ornamental designs on pre-existing inventions, such as furniture style or an electronic device’s outer casing. 

Plant patents are for any newly bred or discovered variety of plant, provided that it is indeed a genetically distinct organism. 

The type of patent required should be relatively simple to determine by seeing which category your invention falls into. The attorney handling your case will be able to confirm it for you if there are any doubts on the matter.

Step Three: prepare and file

Once you know what kind of patent you’ll need to apply for, your next step is to acquire the correct forms for your patent application, fill them out, and gather any necessary documents to be filed with your application. The exact requirements will depend on which of the three types of patent you’re applying to receive. 

If you’re employing the services of a patent attorney, they will write the patent application for you. Your efforts will be limited to signing your approval and providing them with any documents they might need for the process.

Part of this preparation also involves ensuring you have the money necessary to pay any fees incurred. At a minimum, there will be a basic fee, a search fee, an examination fee, and an issue fee. As with most of this process, the exact cost and prices will depend on the type of patent you are filing. 

Once you’ve completed all forms, attached any necessary documents, and paid the initial fee, submit your application online or via mail as directed.

Step Four: appeal and rework as necessary

Once you complete and submit your application, it will be examined by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. If your application is incomplete or fails to meet the requirements, the patent office will contact you or your chosen legal counsel to inform you. 

This notice will list the problems with your application and give you a deadline to correct them. Failure to respond before the deadline will render your application void. If your application is rejected twice, you may appeal the decision to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. 

Step Five: patent accepted 

Once your patent is accepted, you’ll receive a Notice of Allowance informing you of your success and additional publication fees. The patent office will also mail you an official patent grant and other documents that apply to your situation. 

Step Six: maintenance fees

Once you hold a legal patent, you’ll need to pay a maintenance fee after a certain number of years to prevent it from expiring. These fees are charged four, eight, and twelve years after the date your patent was initially issued. 

Final Thoughts

While this process can be complicated, obtaining a patent should result in success. Look into using a patent docking system or follow these steps to make the process easier on yourself. It will help you in the long run.

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