The Novice’s Guide to Patenting an Idea

There were more than 391,000 patents granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2019.

Among the patents granted was a new process to process checks and transactions made by checks. Another one was a new electric vehicle charging station.

If you have a great idea that you want to protect, you have to know the process for patenting an idea. It’s a long road to get a patent approved, about two years.

You need to act now to protect your intellectual property. Read on to learn how to patent an idea.

What Is a Patent?

A patent is a right of exclusivity given to you by the government to produce a new product or use a new process. Each government has its own process to patent something.

In Europe, the process is overseen by the European Patent Office. In the United States, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is responsible for granting patents.

This is important to note because patents are granted all over the world by different authorities. That could impact your ability to obtain a patent.

The Types of Patents

In the United States, there are three basic types of patents: design patents, utility patents, and plant patents.

A utility patent applies to a thing that is either new or improved. That thing can be a process, a machine, or a product. This could apply to certain features of a product or the technical aspects of a product. For example, Ascentic Retail Engineering has a unique process to help retailers showcase products. 

A plant patent can be for a discovered or invented plant. The plant has to be unique and be able to reproduce asexually. If you’re trying to patent seeds or a growing method, you’ll probably have to apply for a utility patent.

Design patents refer to the unique appearance of a product. Earlier this year, Apple was awarded design patents for the Mac Pro desktop computer.

Patenting an Idea

It is possible to patent an idea? In most cases, you can’t patent an idea just based on the idea alone. However, you can patent the idea once it becomes part of a process or a product.

One area where there is a gray area around patenting ideas is in technology. Large tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Samsung rely on artificial intelligence and algorithms to function.

These are ideas that are generally self-reliant. In most technology-related patents, they were granted based on human-driven inputs and computer-generated outputs.

The technology has changed, and the patent office has been slow to adapt accordingly. Ideas that deal with artificial intelligence where human-driven inputs don’t exist can apply for patents.

There will need to be multiple utility patents. Each patent is for a step in the process.

DIY or Hire a Lawyer?

Inventors always run into this question. Is it best to file your patent on your own, or should you hire a patent attorney?

The main concern is cost. The DIY route means that you’ll just pay the patent fees, which range between $75 and $300. You could pay for the Patent and Trademark Office to do a patent search for you, which will run several hundred dollars.

An attorney could cost between $8,000 and $16,000. That depends on how complex your invention is. It does seem like a lot of money, but attorneys understand the law and the application process in ways that you don’t.

The DIY route could cost you more in time and energy because you made a preventable mistake that caused your patent to get denied.

The Patent and Trademark Office does have a considerable list of attorneys that are licensed to represent clients before the agency.

Look for attorneys that are in your area and then check their status with your state’s bar to make sure you get a qualified and reputable attorney.

Steps to Patenting an Idea

What does it take to patent an idea? There are many steps involved in the process. The first step is to know if you can patent your idea. If you can, then you need to know what type of patent you have to file for.

The next step is to search to see if a person or company already filed a patent for a similar idea. The Patent and Trademark Office has this long list of resources to conduct a patent search.

You need to make sure that there isn’t something else already on file, not just in the U.S., but around the world. This is where hiring an attorney can be so valuable. They’ll know the search process and will be able to definitively say whether or not your idea is already in existence.

Fill Out the Application

Did your idea pass the search test? You just passed a big hurdle to get a patent. Your next step is to fill out the application. The details of the application depend on the type of patent. 

A design patent will need to have illustrations of your design. These illustrations have to show what makes the design special. 

After you submit your application, the Patent and Trademark Office will contact you. They may require additional documentation. 

It’s a Process to Patent an Idea

A great idea that is revolutionary deserves to be protected. You need to go above and beyond to protect your intellectual property, which is why patents are so important.

Patenting an idea means that you have exclusive rights to use that product or process unless you grant someone else the authority to do so.

It’s a long process to patent an idea, and you need to make sure that you understand each step. Your best choice is to hire an attorney to make sure that you have an outstanding application.

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