Inventors: How to Patent Your Invention

If you are an inventor, you need to learn the basics of patenting your idea or creation before launching it in your business or through other commercial means. If you do not take these steps, then you risk someone stealing your idea without any meaningful repercussions. Patenting your idea does not have to be a huge obstacle, but because the process is technical, it can be a little daunting. However, if you keep good records and work with an experienced professional, the process can run very smoothly.

1. Make sure that your idea qualifies for a patent.

Not every idea will qualify for patent protection. For instance, you cannot patent an idea alone. You must take tangible steps to create your design. You must be able to show that the invention works and that it is new. It does not have to be entirely new, but it must be at least slightly different from other products or processes that have patents already.

You should also take specific note of this qualification: you cannot sell it before you patent it.

2. Keep careful records of your invention and creation process.

You will need to present your idea to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). That means that you need to know exactly how you created your invention, how it works, and a variety of additional specifications. Note how you came up with the idea and what purpose it serves. While you do not have to build a prototype, it may be a good idea depending on your invention.

You may also want to have a couple of witnesses sign off on your creative efforts. Showing that someone else knows about the work that you put into the product can be helpful if any conflicts arise later.

3. Do a patent search.

You must search through already-existing patents to ensure that your invention is new. Just because the idea is new to you, or you have not been able to find anyone that sells it commercially, does not mean that the concept has not yet been patented. Some inventions become patented but remain unmarketed for some time. Your attorney will be able to help you with this step because searching through patents can be very time-consuming.

4. Be ready to explain how your invention is different from others.

Your idea or invention may be similar to another patent. If that is the case, you need to be able to examine the patent and determine why your approach is different. The concept does not necessarily have to be better since that may be a matter of opinion, but it must be different.

5. Prepare and file your application with the USPTO.  

There are two types of applications you can file with the USPTO. The first is a regular application, which is longer and more time-consuming. The second is a “provisional” patent application or PPA. This application lets you claim the patent status as pending while you work on the longer, more extensive form. If you are concerned about someone else patenting your idea, this shorter application may be the best way to address that concern.

Integrated General Counsel can help you walk through the patent process. We make the procedure simple so you can work on your invention while we put together the paperwork. Give us a call today to learn more.

Written by Integrated General Counsel

Our focus includes handling a variety of corporate matters and also includes litigation in state and federal courts. Our current practice includes providing transactional services and representing a variety of small and medium-sized companies as their outsourced general counsel.