DIY: How to File for a Non-Provisional Patent

By David Carnes

A patent protects your right to use and profit from an invention. Many individuals and businesses retain patent attorneys or patent agents to represent them in the application process, especially if the technology is complex or litigation is likely. Absent these complicating factors, it is possible to file a patent application on your own. In the United States, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) administers the examination and approval of patent applications. A non-provisional patent is valid for the full patent term – in most cases 20 years.

A patent protects your right to use and profit from an invention. Many individuals and businesses retain patent attorneys or patent agents to represent them in the application process, especially if the technology is complex or litigation is likely. Absent these complicating factors, it is possible to file a patent application on your own. In the United States, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) administers the examination and approval of patent applications. A non-provisional patent is valid for the full patent term – in most cases 20 years.

Step 1

Create a detailed description of your invention. This description should include prose, specifications, drawings and graphs describing your invention in such detail that a skilled practitioner could use your description to manufacture it himself.

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Step 2

Draft patent claims for your invention. These claims should describe which specific features of your invention (such as a collapsible frame) warrant patent protection. Your claims must establish that your invention, and every feature of it that you seek to patent, is unique, useful and inventive.

Step 3

Write an abstract for your patent application. The abstract should be 150 words or less and should state succinctly what your invention is, what it does and how its main components work.

Step 4

Create digital copies of your descriptions, claims and abstract.

Step 5

Navigate to the USPTO website and register with the Electronic Filing System (EFS-Web) on the "Getting Started – New Users" page. Obtain a customer number and digital certificate. Registration allows you to track the status of your patent application online and electronically save your patent application materials on the USPTO website.

Step 6

Complete the Application Transmittal form, which is a cover sheet for your application. It requires you to supply basic facts about your application along with your mailing address.

Step 7

Complete the Fee Transmittal form. This form is used to calculate the applicable fees.

Step 8

Complete a Declaration for Utility or Design Patent Application form. You must list your name and contact details; the name, contact details and citizenship of each inventor; provide information about any foreign patent applications that may have been filed with respect to this invention; and declare that you believe the listed inventors are the first inventors of the technology you seek to patent.

Step 9

Prepare an Application Data Sheet. Follow the instructions provided in the format guide issued by the USPTO. This document requires you to supply bibliographic information about yourself and to list previously filed patent applications, if any, with respect to the invention.

Step 10

Submit the Application Transmittal and the Fee Transmittal form, the Declaration for Utility or Design Patent Application, the Application Data Sheet, and your description, claims and abstract to the USPTO using the EFS-Web filing system.

Step 11

Pay the application filing fee, which will be several hundred dollars. You can remit your payment online by credit or debit card, via electronic funds transfer (EFT) or from a USPTO deposit account.

Step 12

Respond to any correspondence you receive from the USPTO. It is normal to receive multiple requests for clarifications as well as demands for revisions to your application. If you disagree with the USPTO, submit a detailed explanation of your argument and reasoning.

Step 13

Pay the patent issuance fee once you are notified that your patent has been approved. Fees vary but you can expect to pay at least several hundred dollars for the patent issuance fee.

File a provisional application for patent online. Get Started Now
How to Submit an Invention to the US Patent Office

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What Are Patents?

Article I of the U.S. Constitution empowers the federal government to grant patents to “promote the progress of science and the useful arts.” A patent is a property right that enables an inventor to prevent others from using his invention for a limited time. In essence, it gives the inventor a monopoly and the exclusive rights to sell, use, or license the invention. To receive a patent, the inventor must publicly disclose how the invention works. By providing legal protection to new inventions, patents help encourage investments in research and development without fear that another will steal their hard work.

How to Patent a Toy Idea

It is impossible to patent a mere idea -- you must first reduce it to tangible form. To be eligible for a patent, your toy must be unique, useful and non-obvious. Of these three patent requirements, non-obviousness is the most difficult to meet, due to the low-tech nature of most toys -- your toy must exhibit a degree of innovation beyond the "state of the art" that would not be obvious to a skilled toy manufacturer. Toy designs are normally filed as utility patents, which expire 20 years after the original patent application filing date.

How to File a Provisional Patent Application

The US Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO, has offered inventors the option of filing provisional patent applications since 1995. The purpose of the provisional application is to give inventors a low-cost way to complete an initial filing while determining if it is worthwhile to go through the nonprovisional patent application process. Inventors who file provisional patent applications are permitted to use the term “patent pending” for their inventions. A provisional patent application can be mailed to the USPTO, or submitted online using a secure system known as the EFS-Web.

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