Have you ever gotten an idea so good that you thought to yourself, “I have to get this patented.”? If yes, then you’ve arrived at the right place. Suppose you think you’ve thought of a world-changing idea like Spotify and Facebook and are not sure what to do with it. In that case, we’re here to help you learn more about protecting your intellectual property by giving you the needed knowledge on how to get ideas patented.
Many tend to find the patent application process complicated and intimidating because of the many possible complications. That’s why in this article, we’ve attempted to cover everything you need to know, from how patents work to why you should get an idea patented and the possible drawbacks that you may face as you go along with the process. Along with that, we’ll list five steps you need to take in order to secure your patent.
Now without further ado, let’s get started.
What is a Patent?
Let’s start from the basics and first discuss what a patent really is. In simple terms, patents are exclusive rights that the government grants to a product or to an individual over a product. Patents allow you to make profits from the product and manage the way it’s used, marketed, and sold, but only for a specific period of time (often around 20 years). After this patent expires, the protection ends, and so the invention gets added to the so-called “public domain,” meaning that anyone can use it without needing to worry about patent infringement.
What Do Patents Do?
Patents are there to protect your intellectual property, ensuring that your ideas do not get stolen from competitors who may want to profit from them. If you have a patent and someone uses your idea to make a profit without your consent, you can start a lawsuit against the person for stealing your intellectual property.
Can You Patent an Idea?
Many people tend to believe that you can’t patent an idea. However, in reality, you can. The only thing you need to do is complete a US patent application process and you will have to prove that your idea is really unique and innovative to a registered patent agent. If you’re unable to do so and your idea doesn’t meet some key criteria in terms of its originality or use, then you won’t be able to get a patent.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office wants to validate only genuinely unique ideas which are deserving of a patent instead of giving way for amateurs to make a quick buck off of some half-baked concept.
With all that said, if you’re still in the phase where you simply have an idea, the best thing you can do is evaluate it and ensure that it really has a purpose and will be able to attract customers. Once that idea has gotten to the point of becoming something concrete, you can consider filing for a patent.
Why are Patents Needed?
If you ever wanted to know how to protect ideas that you have, well, now you do – by getting a patent. Its sole purpose is to protect your ideas as intellectual property and thus prevent competitors from being able to use your idea and make profits out of it. Patents are given only to truly novel innovations and are made so that innovators can market their inventions without fearing that someone will copy them.
If this isn’t enough to convince you that you need to file for a patent, then consider this example. Elisha Gray invented an apparatus that had the ability to transmit speech – what we now call the telephone electronically. However, when her lawyer went to the patent office, he found out that the very same day, someone else – a man under the name of Alexander Graham Bell – had already patented the same idea.
By applying for a patent at an early stage, you avoid making the same mistake as Elisha Gray. Along with that, it ensures that your future business is protected, and you will even be able to make money just through licensing.
What’s the Difference Between International and US Patents?
While the basic principles are the same in all countries, each one has its own individual patent laws, which can vary depending on the product, what qualifies as a patent, and the way patents are enforced.
In this article, our primary focus will be the patent-filing process for the United States, as it will otherwise get too overwhelming. US patents are given by the “United States Patent and Trademark Office”, or as it’s better known, the USPTO. As per their own statement, their goal is to “grant patents for the protection of inventions and to register trademarks. It serves the interests of inventors and businesses with respect to their inventions, corporate products, and service identifications.”
The Four Types of US Patents
In the United States, there are four different kinds of patents. To receive one of them, your idea should fit into one of the following categories.
Utility patents are granted to anyone who discovers or invents a product, machine, process, “composition of matter,” or any other new and useful improvement of such.
A design patent is awarded to anyone who invents an original, new and ornamental design for an article of manufacture.
A plant patent may be given to someone who discovers, invents, and asexually reproduces any new or distinct plant variety.
It’s probably pretty straightforward, but a software patent is given to anyone who invents a piece of software.
In the steps provided below, we will walk you through getting ideas protected as an ecommerce entrepreneur who wants to develop a new product. These are basically the steps you need to take to receive a utility patent
How to Get Ideas Patented: Step-by-Step Utility Patent
The first thing you need to know is that getting a utility patent takes an average of about three years, from the moment you file the patent to the end of the process. You first need to complete the patent filing process to secure a patent, also called “patent prosecution.” If you’re willing to pay additional fees, the USPTO offers expedited services. However, you also have to meet specific requirements, which can make the waiting period around one year instead of three.
The process involves the following:
- You will have to wait a while during the initial preparation of the patent application. It can take weeks or even months, as it entirely depends on the complexity of the patent and the person drafting it. Along with that, it also matters how much information the inventor can provide about the new invention.
- After the patent is prepared, then it’s filed with the USPTO. This part of the process is actually relatively quick and typically done electronically, so you will immediately get a patent serial number, which sets your idea in the “patent pending” status.
- Next, your application gets received by a patent examiner, which is the step that takes about a year and maybe even longer. Once the idea has been reviewed, the examiner routinely rejects the application, something that’s referred to as an “office action.”
- Here’s where a response from the applicant or his attorney needs to be made, as otherwise, the patent application may get abandoned.
- You have to know that it’s quite common to receive a second or even a third rejection, as that’s what makes the process last around three years.
Okay, now that we have a basic overview of the entire process, let’s look at each step you have to take to receive a patent in the United States.
Step 1: Do a Patent Research
The very first step you need to take towards getting a patent is searching through the USPTO’s database and looking for any similar ideas that might have already gotten patented. You can do that on the USPTO’s website, where there’s a database full of past and existing patents that you can browse through using terms that relate to your idea.
It’s good to try multiple terms that are close to your invention so that you can see as many search results as possible. If your invention is in a broader industry, you might need an expert’s help to look through all the existing patents, analyze their descriptions, and see photos of the product. As you conduct this research, make sure to note any inventions you find to be similar to your own. If you find a few, you will have to come up with an explanation as to how yours is better or different from the ones that already exist.
Step 2: Choose Your Patent-Filing Process
Different types of patent-filing processes vary depending on whether you choose to file for a provisional patent application (PPA) or a regular patent application (RPA).
By opting for a provisional patent, you will be able to claim “patent pending” status for your idea. This status doesn’t hold much on its own and is nowhere near as effective as an actual patent, but its main benefit is that it requires a lot less work and money. It also helps you build credibility for the product you’re offering.
On the other hand, a regular patent application comes with many paperwork and filing requirements and may require more time and money. However, it’s much more beneficial because you’re getting all the patent rights over your idea. If you simply file for a PPA, you may need an RPA real soon, and it will just mean that you’re paying your lawyer for double the work.
Step 3: Ensure Your Patent Idea is Eligible
No matter how good you think your idea is, you need to remember that only a few innovations actually get awarded a patent. According to the patent statute 35 USC 101, a patent has to be any “new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof is eligible for patent protection.” To put it simply, to qualify for a patent, your idea needs to have three main qualities: be helpful, be innovative, and be non-obvious.
This means that your idea needs to help improve your customer’s life somehow. It needs to be something that has never been patented before. Non-obvious simply means that it should be something tangible – you can’t patent a blog post or a Powerpoint presentation.
Step 4: Submit the Patent Application
A complete RPA (regular patent application) should have all of these elements:
- A patent application form
- Appropriate patent fees
- An application datasheet
- Specifics about the product
- Drawings or photos (if necessary)
- An executed declaration or oath
In this part of the process, you will want to describe your idea and highlight all its significant benefits in as much detail as you can. You want to convince the reader that your vision is filling some kind of a market gap. As you can see, this step includes the gathering and submitting of a ton of files, and so it’s a good idea to track what you do and support your case with as many specs, drawings, and pictures as you can find.
Step 5: Wait for the Patent
After you’re done filing the application, you shouldn’t expect to hear from the USPTO quickly. It can take up to a year before you hear back, especially if there are other inventions similar to yours.
However, it most likely won’t be a direct approval when you get a response. It’s quite common for the first response to be a denial – maybe they didn’t consider the idea novel enough, or they found that it’s too similar to another already patented product. Whatever it is, your attorney will have to start working with you to resolve the issue as soon as possible so that you can resubmit the patent for a second and maybe even a third time.
Is Filing for a Patent Expensive?
The short answer is – it depends. Typically, patent filing fees range between $75 and $10,000 before submissions. To that number, you also need to add:
- Patent search fees
- Research fees
- Post-allowances fees
Along with that, you need to consider how much you will pay your attorney, as their fees can add up pretty quickly.
If you believe that you’ve come to a breakthrough and have come up with a once-in-a-lifetime idea, then filing for a patent is good. The same rule applies if you’ve thought of a product that people desperately need and want to buy.
On the other hand, if you’re simply doing it to show off or add some credibility to your brand, you probably should reconsider doing it.
If you’re looking to file a patent, hopefully, this article gives you just enough information so that you know what you’re getting into. If you need to learn more about starting your own business and marketing your products, then head over to the Camberlion blog, where you will find tons of helpful blog posts.