If you have a great product idea which can lead to a significant amount of profit for your business, you will want to protect your idea with a patent.
With a patent, you can secure the exclusive rights for your invention but the patient process can be legally complex.
How do you patent an idea? This article will discuss the topic in detail.
Patent lawyers are very expensive, although their experience and judgment may be necessary for your case.
However, there are situations where you do not need a lawyer to get your idea patented. You may even patent your idea for free, if you are willing to put the time and effort into it.
This way, you do not only save thousands of dollars in fees, but you also have much more control over the process of how your invention is patented.
We take a look at what you need to do to get a patent for your idea for free.
How To Patent An Idea
Filing A Patent Without Attorney
First up, it’s worthwhile pointing out that although filing a patent can be a long and difficult process for anyone who isn’t an attorney, many inventors have successfully managed to file for a patent on their own.
Federal law states that patent examiners at the USPTO (US Patent and Trademark Office) should help individuals to apply for a patent without the help of a lawyer.
There aren’t any specific legal skills required for filing a patent, but it does take a little big of patience and learning.
Some of the below steps are fairly easy, while others require more time to get a US patent.
Check Your Invention Qualifies
Before you start the process of applying for a patent, you will need to check that your invention qualifies for a patent.
After all, there is no reason why you should file a patent if your invention does not work, is likely to be rejected or it doesn’t meet the criteria set out by the USPTO.
There are five criteria that apply when an invention is assessed for its patent suitability. These criteria are utility, patentable subject matter, non-obviousness, novelty and enablement.
There are a number of different websites that describe exactly what these criteria involve. One of these useful legal sources is the Legal Information Institute run by Cornell Law School.
Keep A Written Record Of Your Idea
The US Patent and Trademark Office has very specific rules when it comes to accepting a patent application.
These may seem complex but if you just follow their guidelines, then you can manage to navigate the patent system.
One of the first steps towards filing a patent application is recording every step of your idea and the invention.
You can do this either in a notebook or digitally. Take as many notes and describe every detail as far as possible.
Make a note of each step, from the initial idea of your invention to modifications and prototype. You will need to document each step carefully, and don’t forget to add a date and your signature to each entry.
You will also need to ask two witnesses to sign each entry as well.
Assess Your Invention’s Financial Potential
Typically, individuals do not apply for a patent for personal reasons. Most patent applications are part of a strategic business decision.
Filing a patent is expensive even without an attorney, so you will need to ensure that your invention makes commercial sense to get a return on your investment.
That’s why, before you start filing an application, do your due diligence and extensive market research to make an informed decision on whether your invention is worth patenting.
Do An In-Depth Patent Search
Another step before applying for a U.S. patent is to make sure that your idea isn’t new. This goes hand in hand with your market research.
Explore any previous developments of your invention, and whether there are similar products on the market.
Also make sure to check any foreign patents that may exist already. Take a look at publications, such as technical or scientific papers and journals.
This research can take up a lot of time, but it is essential that you have a very good understanding of any related inventions and what makes your idea different.
At this point, you may also consider hiring a professional to help you with the research, but usually you know your field best and that’s why you are likely to be the best person for the research.
Most of this research can be done online but it’s also worth visiting Patent and Trademark Depository libraries where you can search for other patents that may be similar to yours.
The USPTO provides a lot of information to make this research part easier. This page on patent search is particularly useful
File Your Patent Application With The US Patent And Trademark Office
Once you are absolutely sure that you have done your research, you are ready to file a patent application with the USPTO.
There are two options when filing an application: a provisional patent application (PPA) or a regular patent application (RPA).
A PPA isn’t a full patent application but it allows you to create a “patent pending” status for your idea.
This can be particularly handy if you are still in the development stage of your new product, and you want to make sure that nobody else snatches up your idea in the meantime.
In addition, a PPA requires a lot less work and it is also a fraction of the cost of a standard patent application.
For a PPA, you will pay a small feed, and you need to provide a detailed description of your invention as well as an informal drawing which shows the details of your product.
It’s worthwhile pointing out here that you will need to file your standard RPA within a year of applying for a provisional patent application.
It does take a little bit of effort, time and some financial investment when you want to apply for a patent.
Although you can apply for a patent without the help of an attorney, no patent application is free. You will still need to invest your business time and some money for any application fees.
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