Checklist for Getting a Patent

By Stephanie Dube Dwilson

Coming up with a brilliant invention can be exciting. Among the most important steps you'll want to take right away is applying for a patent. A patent will protect your invention and keep others from making the same thing and profiting from it. You'll want to start the process early because if someone else has created something similar, the decision on who gets the patent might be based on who created it first or applied first.

Coming up with a brilliant invention can be exciting. Among the most important steps you'll want to take right away is applying for a patent. A patent will protect your invention and keep others from making the same thing and profiting from it. You'll want to start the process early because if someone else has created something similar, the decision on who gets the patent might be based on who created it first or applied first.

Stay Confidential

You'll want to keep extensive notes on the process of creating your invention, including all e-mail messages, records of meetings and information about who helped you. All of this will help establish a timeline of when you created the idea in case someone challenges your patent. It is important to keep all this information confidential. Do not publish any papers about your invention or even write an abstract about your invention for a meeting. The United States Patent and Trademark Office views publication of any kind as grounds for denying your patent application.

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Talk to an Attorney

Meet with an attorney about your patent application. The USPTO doesn't require that you use an attorney to file your application; thus, you can file one yourself. However, you should talk to an attorney to find out if you would benefit from having an attorney's help. The USPTO recommends hiring an attorney because the process can be complicated and you need to word information on your application in a particular manner to get through the patent examination process.

Search for Prior Art

You'll need to spend time searching for prior art to see if your invention is patentable. This means you need to find out if anyone else has already created something similar. A simple Internet search is a good place to start. However, you'll also want to search the USPTO's website. The USPTO offers a seven-step strategy to help you with this process. The steps involve properly classifying your invention and brainstorming relevant keywords, accessing the USPTO's full text of patents and patent applications, and reviewing references from similar patents to see if these contain prior art.

File With the USPTO

Use the USPTO's Electronic Filing System to file your application for a patent online. You'll need to upload any relevant sketches or drawings of your invention. Your application will need to include a description of the invention, a list of co-inventors if applicable, cross references to related applications, all steps involved in making and using the invention, all claims regarding the scope of the invention that should be patented and payment of relevant fees. The USPTO's website provides detailed information about everything that should be included in your application.

Follow Up

Once you or your attorney have filed the patent application, your work isn't done. You'll need to promptly respond to any questions the patent examiner sends you or any amendments that are requested. In order to maintain your patent after it's granted, you'll also need to pay maintenance fees to the USPTO 3.5, 7.5 and 11.5 years after your patent is granted.

File a provisional application for patent online. Get Started Now
Pros & Cons of Provisional Patent Application

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How to Register a Patent

An inventor applies for a patent through a process called "prosecution" rather than registration. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office oversees patent prosecution and trademark registration. Patents do not automatically qualify for any type of intellectual property rights, as trademarks or copyrights do. Trademarks and copyrights automatically qualify for property rights, as soon as they meet minimal legal qualifications. A trademark or copyright owner may elect optional federal registration for additional protection. An inventor must submit a provisional or nonprovisional patent application, complete the prosecution process and have the patent approved by the federal government.

Can You Ever Lose a Patent?

Patents provide legal protection for your unique ideas translated into inventions. This exclusive right to put an invention into the marketplace gives you the ability to earn money from the invention to the exclusion of others. However, patents do not last forever. The U.S. government, in addition to issuing patents, also puts restrictions on the length of their use.

How to Do a Registration of a Patent

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) grants patent protection to inventors. A patent prevents others from making, using or selling an invention in the United States, or importing the invention into the United States, for a specified number of years. Inventors can apply for several different types of patents, such as utility, design and plant patents. Registering for a patent can be done online using the USPTO’s electronic filing system or through a document preparation and filing service such as LegalZoom.com

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