How to Patent an Invention
A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right
to the inventor(s), issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The right conferred by the patent grant is the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention in the U.S. A patent will also allow you to keep others from importing the invention into the United States.
To get a U.S. patent, an application must be filed in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The application will be reviewed by a patent examiner, and if it meets the legal requirements it will be allowed.
Patents must be for inventions that are new, not obvious and provide a useful function. The patent examiner will usually focus on whether or not your invention has been done before by looking into the patent database.
Patents are valuable to society because they motivate investors to invest in those inventions. They are particularly important in the chemical, computer-technology and pharmaceutical industries. Intellectual Property makes up a large piece of a company’s assets. From the standpoint of the business community, especially for venture capital, patents are extremely important, since they provide the necessary protection for newly developed products or processes.
Aside from provisional patent applications, (see Provisional Patents) there are essentially two type of patents. Utility patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or compositions of matters, and design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, ornamental design for an article of manufacture.
Conducting a search
There is no requirement that a search be made before filing for a patent, but it is a good idea. First of all before you file for patent, it is nice to know if anyone else’s has patented it. This will save you a lot of money. Second the results of a patent search can tell you a lot about what your competition may or may not be doing. If you’re going to go into business making your invention and trying to sell it, you’ll need to be an expert on what the competition is doing.
Generally I suggest that my clients do their own initial search using the Google patent search engine available here http://www.google.com/patents. It’s important to remember that just because you don’t find anyone selling your invention does not mean it has not been patented. It simply means no one is selling it yet. The real test of patentability will be the patent database and whether anyone has done it before regardless of what’s available on the market.
Working with a Patent Attorney
Patents are complex documents and generally I don’t recommend people doing them on their own. An experienced patent attorney can make a significant difference in getting or not getting a patent. However, there are some things you can do to make working with patent attorneys more efficient and therefore save some money.
The first step is to make sure you have a written description of exactly what you believe your invention is. The second thing is to have a drawing showing how your invention operates. Of course for complex inventions you will probably have several paragraphs and several drawings. The more written information and drawings you have, the easier it is for the patent attorney to understand your invention and draft an appropriate patent application.
When you write out your invention there are two key questions the patent attorney needs you to answer. The first question is “how to make this invention?” And the second question is “how do you use this invention?” Before you meet your patent attorney have these questions clearly spelled out. It will help make the patenting process more efficient and therefore more affordable.
Mr. Pete Tormey heads the Intellectual Property Group for Antero & Tormey LLP. He has a J.D., an MBA in marketing and a BS in electronic engineering. He is licensed to practice in California and before the US Patent and Trademark Office. He can be reached at pt@AnTLegal.com or at (925) 352-9842.
The advice included in this article is for education purposes only; consult a patent professional for specific information about your invention.