If you are a manufacturer or a creative person with a lot of innovative technological ideas, at some point you will probably consider how to patent the idea or product that you have created.

We have previously talked about how and why copyright should be protected. which protects intellectual property like a letter or photo. We have also prepared interesting articles about brand trademarks. is a design or logo that identifies a product or service (brand). In this article, we will look at the patent process, especially from a manufacturer’s point of view.

Please note that this article is not intended to provide legal advice. If you’re worried that someone might patent your idea before you can, and you have something to lose (money or time), it’s always good to take the risk and invest in a patent lawyer. However, if you are interested in the general process of patenting an idea, then read on.

How to patent an idea or design

All in all, this is a brief overview of the US patent process, which we will cover in more detail in this article.

  1. Decide why you want to get a patent.
  2. Determine if your idea is eligible for a patent.
  3. Fully document your new process or design. Creating a working prototype is always a good idea.
  4. Decide if you should use a lawyer.
  5. Perform a thorough patent search (preferably paying for one).
  6. Apply for a Provisional Patent Application (PPA) if you need to.
  7. Develop and test your idea to prepare for the provisional patent application process.
  8. Apply for a patent.
  9. A patent examiner will review your application and determine if you qualify for a patent.

This is the short version. Now let’s get into the details. If you are more interested in a specific step, feel free to scroll down to this section of the article.

1. Why do you want to get a patent?

Do you have dreams that your innovative, futuristic idea is like will bring you a lot of money? Do you have a vision of corporate lawyers kicking your door in with offers to acquire the rights to your idea?

Before you go too far down this path, it’s important to understand that patents alone won’t make you rich.

Take Thomas Davenport, for example. Here is Mr. Davenport’s patent, which he finally received in 1837 after many unsuccessful attempts.

how to patent an idea

Davenport was just a blacksmith from Vermont, but his influence on magnetic machines the separation of iron ore gave him the idea to create a device that would convert electricity into mechanical motion. The first DC motor.

Davenport sold many of his belongings (and even his horse) to get one of these electromagnets. He and his wife spent years experimenting and refining their machine, finally getting their patent in 1837.

how to patent an idea

After that, basically nothing happened. He set up a laboratory in New York to manufacture and market his engine. But its expensive and unstable DC motor could not compete with the steam engines of the era. Davenport eventually died without earning a dime from his patent.

This is a cautionary tale. This does not mean that your patent will not be useful to you, but a patent should be viewed as the first step towards promoting your idea in the market, and not a get-rich-quick scheme.

2. Is your idea eligible for a patent?

When considering whether your idea or design will qualify for a patent, you must first consider what type of patent it might qualify for. There are three types:

  • Utility Patent: Defines a new process or an improvement to an existing process, or how a machine or device works.
  • Design Patent: defines the appearance or appearance of a device or object.
  • Crop patent: focused on agriculture, this patent defines a new plant variety.

Most inventors who come up with a completely new idea for a device or gadget will be interested in a useful information patent.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has a very clear set of guidelines for inventions that can qualify for a patent:

  • Utility: The idea should have a «useful purpose» and a practical one — that is, if you came up with an idea for a washing machine that washes clothes using some unique process that doesn’t require water like most other washing machines, you should be able to prove that such a machine can actually work as described.
  • Not created by nature: an idea cannot include something created by «laws of nature» or «physical phenomena». For example, if you are exploring a remote jungle and discover new types of trees, you cannot patent them.
  • Not just an idea if you only have an idea that you sketched on a napkin at lunchtime and think you can patent it, think again. The USPTO states that «A patent cannot be obtained on the basis of an idea or proposal alone.» Be prepared to describe in detail how your new invention works.
  • Novel and «non-obvious»: the idea must be sufficiently unique or new. Obviously, an existing patent or product on the market can no longer exist. Even a presentation, a scientific meeting, or a demonstration at a trade show can make it impossible for you to patent an idea. There are a lot of legal loopholes here, so if you feel like you’ve come up with this idea in the first place, it’s time to contact a patent lawyer and discuss your case.
  • non-creative: it refers to intellectual property, like writing or art. Patent law does not cover this, copyright law.

The most obscure definition above is «non-obvious», but even that becomes clear once you start looking at the industry covered by the patent. According to attorney Matthew Hickey of RocketLawyer.com:

“Courts examining whether an invention is obvious will look at the scope and content of existing knowledge and technology in that industry, the level of what is customary skill in that industry, the differences between the claimed invention and what is already common in the industry, and any other objective evidence that your new idea is not obvious.”

If you really know what you’re doing, then you’ve probably been involved in your industry for quite some time and should already know what the experts consider «obvious».

3. Fully Document Your Idea

The easiest first step in the application process is describing the idea behind your invention. You must do this formally, and in fact the witness (and even the second witness) must sign your description.

Docie Invention & Parent Marketing actually provides a free worksheet for inventors to use for this. The key elements of this table include a very detailed description of the operation of the device and a drawing. If you need inspiration on how to draw your invention, just look at the patents that date back to the early 1800s.

how to patent an idea

These drawings are usually three views: side, top, and front.

If your idea is more of a non-physical idea, such as an application or a new way to communicate information over the Internet, just document the logical flow or concept in some clear way. It shouldn’t be too hard. See how Google illustrated his idea when he filed for a patent on Page Rank.

how to patent an idea

It’s not quite an Edisonian masterpiece. But it worked.

Keep in mind that this not your patent application. This is your first step in that direction, documenting your idea on paper and getting witnesses to back you up when you claim it was your idea in the first place.

4. Do you need a lawyer?

The USPTO does not require you to hire an attorney by law. You can apply for a patent yourself and patent examiners will actually help you through the process as much as possible. However, in some situations you really need to invest in a lawyer to defend your idea:

  • You are not sure if your idea is suitable. This means you need someone with a deep understanding of patent rules and patent qualification laws.
  • You are not sure you are doing a patent search. Patent attorneys hire professional patent researchers who browse the USPTO database for similar ideas. You can bypass a lawyer by hiring an expert yourself or by using an online service. You can search directly on the USPTO patent search page.
  • Your idea is really profitable. Let’s say you’ve just invented time travel. The way you word your patent application will be used in patent court in the future when someone else tries to do what you invented. If the chances are high, then you should contact a lawyer who can help you draft a claim that covers all the grounds well.
  • The USPTO objects to your claim. If you are in the process of negotiating with the patent office and feel they are giving you an unusually difficult time, a patent attorney can help you negotiate the way the USPTO expects. Perhaps your patent examiner underestimates your knowledge, so having an attorney can give you more influence.

Whatever you do, don’t leave a good idea on the table and ruin your chances of securing your patent in the future. Doing it right the first time can save you a lot of money down the road.

5. Conduct a patent search

As explained above, an important step in the patent application process is to make sure no one has come up with your idea yet. It’s not just to see if your idea exists, it’s also to find the most suitable patents for you. Part of your patent application should include a list of them and your explanation of why your own invention is unique among the listed patents. This shows your patent examiner that you have done your homework.

There are so many resources on the Internet these days for a thorough patent search that you can do it yourself. Of course, one of the best resources on the web is Google Patents. Leave it to Google to also include an analysis of all patents in the right margin of the results page.

how to patent an idea

It makes sense to use one of the most powerful search engines. powerful search engines powerful search engines in the world to get the most out of your patent search. But there are many other online resources that can help as well.

  • Advanced Google Patent Search: Allows you to search in fields like ‘Original Order’, ‘Date or Date Range’ or even filter by patent type.
  • Patentoscope: Allows you to search not only for US patents, but also for patents from all over the world. It also includes language translation.
  • Resource centers. Each US state of the USPTO also has standard facilities where you can physically visit and use tools such as PubEAST and PubWEST. These tools are used by patent examiners to search for existing patents, so having access to the same tool is a big advantage.

If you live near the USPTO Resource Center, this is the best place to start your journey. There is a library that can help you use search tools and even point you in the right direction wherever you are on your patent journey.

6. Apply for a provisional patent

Sometimes you hear people say they’ve got a «provisional patent». This is a little misleading. There is only one kind of patent: provisional. A «provisional» patent application allows you to be the «first to file» under USPTO rules. This means that if you and others are seeking to develop some innovative new product by filing a provisional application, you are first in line for your provisional patent and have blocked anyone else from filing a patent. for this idea for up to 12 months .

If you’ve ever seen products labeled «patent pending», it’s because this company only filed a provisional patent application and then brought their product to market before actually getting the final patent.

how to patent an idea

A provisional patent is especially useful in a market where many competitors are eager to develop new innovations and begin to capitalize on them in the market long before the patent process is complete.

But be very careful about describing your invention in your provisional patent application. The last thing you want to do is bind yourself to specific design parameters that you realize won’t work when you start trying to build your production line.

Here are the steps to apply for a provisional patent:

  1. Use the Patent for Provisional Application page on the USPTO website as a guide.
  2. Create a cover page that includes your name(s), address, invention title, attorney’s name, and any U.S. government agency «that has a proprietary interest in the application.»
  3. Include a detailed written description and drawings that you created in Step 3 of this article.
  4. Include fee payment as defined on the USPTO application page.
  5. You can send the package to the address listed on the application page, or use EFS-Web to send it electronically.

Once you file this application with the USPTO, you will have the right to use «patent pending» for your invention.

7. Develop and test your idea

Now that you have your provisional patent application, it’s time to develop a working prototype. It should be something you design so you can test with real users so you can refine the design and get a solid, working example of your idea.

Once you have filed your provisional application, you have 12 months to prepare to file your provisional patent application. What should you do during these 12 months?

It is very important to apply for your provisional patent within 12 months because renewals are allowed.

8. File your provisional patent application

You have done all your homework. You have investors and several potential licensing deals. You are ready to get the ball rolling on your patent.

The best place to start to make sure you’ve covered all the basics and know everything you need to include in your application is the USPTO Application Guide. According to the USPTO, this application must include all of the following:

Be sure to find a mentor who has gone through the patent application process. Every time you go through this, you will learn something new, and connecting with someone who has already learned these lessons can save you a lot of time and hassle.

The pride of owning a patent

Throughout history, men and women have applied for patents and received protection from the US government for their intellectual property. Being a creator today is no different than being an inventor in the early 1800s when the sky is the limit when you use your imagination to create new things.

Have you ever filed a patent with the USPTO? How long did the process take you, and what advice do you have for other people going through the application process?

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