Protect Your Idea: An Overview of the Patent Process

Protecting your intellectual property is an essential step both in the creative process and in regards to your business. Although there are several different types of IP protection, today we’re here to talk about the patent process.

A patent protects inventions. In general, it grants an inventor the right to exclude and prevent anyone else from making, using, offering for sale, or selling their invention in the U.S. or importing it from the outside. Patents are very valuable because the initial grant is typically for a term of 20 years, which can sometimes even be extended further in certain situations. The process is governed by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and you can file your application directly with them. Although the process is fairly straightforward, there is a lot you’ll need to be aware of, so working with an attorney is a good idea to make sure everything is done right. In the meantime, let’s continue talking a little bit more about the process and what you should know.

What can you patent?

When you first set out to obtain a patent, you must first determine whether your invention is patentable. In order to determine if it is, you’ll perform what’s called a patent search. A patent search is essential because you cannot patent something that has already been publicly disclosed or previously registered with the USPTO. Performing a patent search is tricky, so if you aren’t familiar with the process, it’s a good idea to work with an attorney to make sure before you actually move forward with the application process.

Once you have determined that your invention is patentable, the next step is to figure out what type of patent you should apply for.

There are 3 different types of patents.

The USPTO details the following types of patents and subsequent definitions:

  • Design Patents: This type of patent is for someone who has created an original ornamental design for an article of manufacture. An ornamental design covers only the appearance of the product.
  • Utility Patents: This type of patent is for anyone who invents or discovers a new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or a useful importance of something already in existence. It differs from a design patent because it covers the actual mechanics of the product, not just the design.
  • Plant Patents: This one is a little bit different because it’s for anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant. It’s less confusing than it sounds. Basically, this just means that the plant must be reproduced any other way than by seeds.

Each application will require certain things, so make sure you select the right one for your invention or discovery before you go any further.

The Application Process

Preparing your application is a tedious process, and so you should work with an experienced attorney who can help you make sure all of your bases are covered. You should be prepared to explain your invention in detail and prove its originality. You should also know that there are some fees associated with applying as well. Although you can submit your application directly to the USPTO’s website, the review process itself will take some time, particularly if there are any issues with your application.

Contact IGC today.

At IGC, we want to make sure your inventions and discoveries are properly protected so that you can get the credit you deserve. We understand how important obtaining patents are, and know what it takes to get it done right. If you have any questions about your intellectual property, please don’t hesitate to contact IGC today!

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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.