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How to Get a Patent

Want to Get a Patent for an Invention?

You’ll need to follow these steps to get a patent.

In order to understand how to patent an idea, you will first need to determine that you have a patentable idea. Then you must file an application to get a patent via the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

1. Do you know what type of patent you need?

You can get several different kinds of patents. It’s important to decide what type of patent is the right one for you.

Examples of common types of patents are:

Utility Patents

Utility patents are the most common type of patents that cover a wide range of categories. To protect the way something is used and how it works, you should get a utility patent. A utility patent would cover a machine, product, a process, or a composition of matter.  

A new kind of biofuel burning car engine or a mind powered hand tool are examples of inventions that would require a utility patent.

Design Patents

A design patent relates to the shape or design embodied in or applied to an article of manufacture. If you are creating a new ornamental feature to an item, you will need a design patent.

Suppose you have manufactured a new computer with a brand new shape that exists for the first time. You could obtain a utility patent for the computer (a machine), and a design patent for the new ornamental feature (the new shape).

Plant Patents

Anyone who discovers or invents and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of a plant can get a plant patent. Asexual reproduction is the multiplication of the plant without using genetic seeds while assuring that the genetic copy of the plant may be employed. However, the plant cannot be found in an uncultivated state for this to be valid.

For more information on the topic, visit the United States Trademark and Patent (USPTO) website to see a list of the many accepted modes of plant reproduction. Once a plant patent is granted, it will last for up to 20 years from the date of filing the application. This way the patent holder can exclude others from reproducing, selling or using the plant in any way.

Software Patents

These days, the most effective method of protection of original computer software is to get a patent for it. A software patent must have the same criteria as all patentable material in order to be protected.

The software must be useful, novel, and nonobvious to someone of ordinary skill in the computer software field. Since computer software is a fairly new process, it’s especially hard to define what the non-obvious element of a software patent should be.

A software must also fall into one of the following patent classes: utility, design or plant. Increasingly a software is being described as a collection of processes or as a machine, so it would fall into the utility class of patents.

2. Decide what type of patent application will need to file for.

Do you need to get a provisional patent, non-provisional patent, or international patent?

Filing for a Provisional Patent in the U.S.

A provisional application is quite different from a non-provisional patent application.  The distinction between a provisional patent application and a non-provisional patent application came about in 1995 when the USPTO first allowed the filing of provisional application.

One of the bigger differences is that the formalities of a non-provisional patent are not necessary in a provisional patent. A provisional patent allows you to put a “patent pending” label on your invention and saves you a spot in line to file for a non-provisional patent. This allows you to hold your spot in line for a one year time frame to figure out if you would want to move forward and file a full non-provisional patent in the future when and if you desire to.

A smaller difference has to do with specific parts of patents such as trade secrets, which will not be released when applying for a provisional patent.

Filing a Non-Provisional Patent in the U.S.

Depending on the type of patent, a non-provisional patent is a standard patent that protects an invention within the U.S. for 14-20 years. Detailed descriptions are required for this application, including a description that would allow another ordinary person to recreate your invention.

The challenge when creating a non-provisional patent lies in the specifications drafting. Stronger patent applications have highly skilled lawyers draft the details on top of creating patent drawings to express a more thorough description.

Filing for an International Patent

Under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), an international agreement with several countries, an inventor may file a single international patent application in order to seek protection for an invention across any country that has signed the agreement. The World Intellectual Property Organization has a list of every country that has signed this agreement.

Need help with getting a patent?

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