A patent is an authoritative document that is given to the first person to apply for a patent on a particular innovation. It allows them to prevent others from producing, selling, or using the innovation represented in the patent for a period of 20 years from the date they first documented the application. So if your innovation has potency, the thought of patenting an idea must be on your mind. So how do you patent an idea?
How does it differ from copyrights and trademarks?
As I said, a patent is an authoritative document. Copyright exists once you have completed your work. Trademarks are also similar; they exist as soon as you have a word or symbol that represents your goods or services in the commercial market. However, to obtain a patent, you must file several applications, conduct extensive searches and, in several cases, hire a lawyer.
For example, when you draft your patent application, you will include elaborate drawings, write several letters, mention several patents belonging to others, and much more. If you can’t do it yourself, you should hire someone to help you.
Additional resource: How to apply for an International Trademark?
Are you ready to patent an idea?
Is your innovation completely finished? Is it doing what you think it’s doing? Have you created a running mock-up? Have you had your innovation tested? You should complete your innovation before you patent your idea, because your patent must be based on what your innovation is, and changes after the concept require another patent. And with a completed innovation in hand, you can also do a market evaluation.
Search and scope for patent
Once you have completed your innovation, now is the time to do a patent search for similar innovations by other people. You can do this online at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website or in a library at the Patent and Trademark Office. Find out how and do an exploratory search yourself. You can hire a lawyer or patent attorney to do an expert search.
What you discover about other innovations like yours will determine the scope of your patent. Maybe there are other innovations that do similar things to yours, but your innovation does it more or has an additional feature. Your patent will simply contain what is unique about your innovation.
The patent attorney you employ should have experience in the field of your innovation, for example, biology, physics, or genetics. He will examine your innovation as a whole and then carry out his own patent search and present you with the results of all the searches carried out.
They may find a patent application that is very similar to your innovation. A nice lawyer will tell you honestly whether your innovation is therefore not patentable. If it is OK, your lawyer will fill in your application. The application will contain the following:
- A brief description in which the new innovation is drafted.
- A description of any “superior art “: previous innovations that are similar to your innovation.
- One or more “assertions” (claims). These are the most important part of the application as they are the literally authoritative description of your innovation.
- A description of the “chosen incarnation” of the innovation. This is an elaborated report on how your concept is literally brought to life.
- Drawings must be submitted if required.
Your patent attorney will probably cost you between $5,000 and $20,000 for the services provided. But for a solid patent, a great application is required. Do all the preparatory activities that you can do yourself to save a few dollars, even though your lawyer will do so again, as you may be able to forego the billable hours.
The Patent Office
Your application will be sent to the Patent Office with a filing fee. Then you must wait until an inspector examines your application. Most patents are rejected on first filing, then the game starts when your lawyer makes corrections and resubmits the application until it is approved (or not) and you receive your patent.
Do not lose any time once your application has been submitted. You can brand your innovation and start promoting it.