All patent application processes begin with the most crucial step: creating an invention. However, if you want to make sure that no one else will use or sell your invention without your permission, you will need to seek legal assistance to register your patent with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Not sure where to start? Check out some of the most frequently asked questions about patents in the United States.
In exchange for complete disclosure of an invention, patents provide the inventor or creator of a product or service with the exclusive rights to its unique process, design, or system and the sole authority to prevent others from using, manufacturing, or selling the invention without their permission.
According to U.S. intellectual property law, an invention or service must be non-obvious, useful, and novel to be eligible for a patent. Patent applications are processed, approved, and administered by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), a government agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce.
The USPTO grants patents to one who “invents or discovers any new and useful process, the machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof.” Moreover, it is only possible to apply for a patent in the name or names of the actual inventor or inventors.
As stated above, an invention or creation is eligible for patent protection if it is non-obvious, useful, and novel. An invention will not be patentable if:
A few common examples of things that cannot be patented include naturally occurring substances, laws of nature, and calculation methods.
There are three main types of patents in the U.S.
As a general rule, utility and plant patent terms last for 20 years from the patent application's application, and design patents last for 15 years from the date the patent was granted, subject to certain extensions.
To calculate your specific patent term expiration, you may use the USPTO’s patent term calculator or consult with an attorney with experience in intellectual property law practice.
While patents provide valuable protection for inventions and creations, they often come at a high price. You can expect to pay anywhere between $1,000 and $10,000 from start to finish. Some may even pay up to $20,000 in fees throughout the process. Exact patent application costs vary heavily depending on the type of patent required, the complexity of the invention, and the size of the business or entity filing the patent application. Total patent application costs are also affected by the number of Office Actions filed throughout the process since there are additional fees involved in responding to Office Actions.
Regardless of the type of patent application filed, there is no guarantee that you will receive patent approval within a specific timeframe. Nevertheless, the average time to obtain a design patent is between one and two years. Regarding utility patents, it may take up to 5 years from the actual filing date to receive official approval.
You do not need a patent attorney to apply for a patent, and you may choose to file your application independently. However, it is highly recommended that you work with a skilled attorney with extensive experience practicing intellectual property law. Patent law is a highly technical legal field, and the process of drafting a patent application and having it approved on your own can be incredibly difficult, even for the most simple of inventions.