Many inventors hire a patent attorney to help them navigate the application process, but this is not always necessary or worthwhile. Attorney fees tend to be very expensive, often costing more than the application fees. Some individuals and small businesses would prefer not to bear these extra costs. If you are seeking a patent as an individual, and an attorney is not assisting you, a patent examiner at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will be required to help you with the application.
The two main goals of a patent application should be straightforward for an inventor. They need to carefully describe each element of their invention in detail, and they need to show that it qualifies for a patent under federal laws. This requires a basic level of familiarity with the laws and regulations in this area, but you can do this research online without resorting to an attorney. As long as you carefully follow the rules laid out by the USPTO, you should be able to receive a patent if your invention qualifies for protection.
Preparing to File
You will want to take notes during the process of developing your invention on the various modifications and improvements that you made. You also should document your inspiration for the invention and any testing that you conduct on prototypes. After you complete each entry in this record, you should sign and date it in addition to asking two witnesses to sign it. This will provide you with a thorough description of each facet of your invention.
As discussed above, you should research patent law to understand the requirements for protection. One of the most important requirements involves showing that your invention is novel, such that it does not duplicate existing inventions, which are known as “prior art.” To make sure that your invention meets this requirement, you should conduct a patent search across all existing patents and publications throughout the world in your field. This may involve a basic internet search, as well as consulting a Patent and Trademark Depository Library. (Eventually, you may want to hire a professional to make sure that you are not overlooking anything.) Your application needs to explain the differences between your invention and any “prior art” that is similar to it.
Even if you believe that your invention qualifies for protection, you may want to make sure that getting a patent would be a profitable decision before spending the filing fees, which are considerable. Perhaps you will need to refine your invention to make it more profitable before filing the application.
Filing the Application
There are two main types of patent applications: regular patent applications and provisional patent applications. The regular patent application will trigger the USPTO examination process through which an invention needs to pass before it gets protection. You can read more here about provisional patent applications, which allow an inventor to get patent pending status for an invention. These applications can be filed for a much smaller fee, but they still need to include a thorough description of the invention and a drawing of it. The filing date for the provisional patent application will apply to a regular patent application that you file within a year afterward.