You have spent an enormous amount of time, money and energy to create an invention you think will change the world. You have scoured the internet and local stores looking for examples of your proposed product and come up empty. You are 100% certain your idea is novel and new, and that the concept is entirely your own.
So what do you do now? What is the next step in the process? Should you file for a provisional patent? Should you seek patent pending status for your idea and move forward with the manufacturing process? Should you try to patent your idea on your own, or do you need the help of a patent attorney?
Whether you hope to patent your invention on your own or work with an experienced patent attorney, there are some critical steps you will need to take. These steps will help you protect yourself and your idea, not only from copycats but from other would-be inventors as well. If you hire a patent attorney, that individual will do a lot of the legwork for you, from conducting a thorough patent search to filing for patent pending status. If you decide to go it yourself, you will need to do these steps on your own.
Either way, each step of the process is important, and each one must be completed in turn. Here are the steps you will need to take to protect your idea and patent your original invention.
Be Sure Your Invention or Idea Qualifies for Patent Protection
Not every original idea is eligible for patent protection, and it is important to do your homework and make sure your idea qualifies for the protection of a patent. In order to qualify for patent protection, your idea or invention must be original, the proposed product must be useful and the idea must be your own.
If you choose to work with a patent attorney, that expert will help you determine whether or not your idea qualifies for patent protection. Hiring a patent attorney at this stage of the game could save you a lot of time and trouble, so you might want to reach out for expert help and guidance before moving forward, even if you plan to pursue the patent on your own.
Document Your Invention Carefully
Whether you plan to pursue patent pending status and patent protection on your own or work with a patent attorney, it is important to document your work carefully. From the original idea that sparked the invention to the first drawings in your notebook, everything should be carefully dated and documented.
If you have some technical and building skills, you might want to create a working prototype of your invention. This physical prototype will be very useful going forward, and depending on the idea it should be relatively easy to create. If you own a 3D printer or have access to one, you may be able to create a working prototype without hiring an outside company or revealing details about your invention and your idea. It is best to keep your idea under wraps at this point, at least until you have a provisional patent in hand or patent pending status.
If a physical prototype is not feasible, you can move forward by creating diagrams and blueprints. These diagrams and blueprints should be as detailed as possible, and you should make sure each document bears a relevant date stamp.
Assess the Value of Your Invention
Some ideas are completely new – and completely worthless. Before you move forward by seeking a provisional patent or patent pending status, you need to assess the marketability of your idea. A patent will do you no good if there is not a market for your product, so market research will be very important at this point.
That market research step can be challenging, especially if you do not have a working prototype or physical object in hand. You also need to be careful and not give too much away, at least not until you have patent pending status or a provisional patent to protect yourself.
Even so, you can do some basic market research based on the niche your proposed product will occupy. Do you have an idea for a new cooking appliance? If so, you can start by determining the total value of the cooking implement market. Will your idea make the tech industry more efficient? A look at the value of the tech industry is a good place to start.
After you have assessed the potential market value of your invention, you can move forward with the provisional patent and patent pending process. Be sure to keep your expectations realistic – it is better to be surprised on the upside than disappointed once your patented product is on the market.
Conduct an Exhaustive Patent Search
If your market research finds that your idea is a potentially profitable one, it is time to protect yourself with a provisional patent or patent pending status. In order to make sure your product idea qualifies for patent protection, you will need to conduct a thorough patent search.
The patent search process can take a long time, and it is important to avoid shortcuts during this critical step. If you miss something or fail to check a relevant database, you could be denied provisional patent or patent pending status, rendering all your hard work utterly worthless.
Even if you have been taking a DIY approach to patent protection up to now, it will be helpful to have a patent attorney help you through the patent search step. An experienced patent attorney will know where to check, which databases to consult and what to look for, so you can be sure your idea qualifies for patent protection before you invest any additional time and money.
Prepare and File a Patent Application
If the results of the patent search show that your idea is original, and that it meets all the other requirements for patent protection, your next step is to actually file the paperwork. All patent paperwork must be filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, also known as the USPTO.
There are some specific steps and requirements implemented by the USPTO, so it is important to read the documentation carefully and make sure you are doing everything right. Once again, it will be helpful to have the help of an experienced patent attorney, an expert who can guide you through this sometimes confusing process. You have worked very hard to get to this point, and you do not want a simple mistake to stand between you and a provisional patent or patent pending status.
You will first need to decide whether you will file for a regular patent application, also known as an RPA, or a provisional patent application, known as a PPA. A provisional patent application is not an application for a patent itself, and filing a PPA just allows you to claim patent pending status. That patent pending status can be important when working on an expedited time frame, and in many cases a provisional patent can be very useful.
A provisional patent requires only a small fraction of the work needed for a full blown patent, and the cost is much lower as well. If you are looking for a simple and inexpensive way to protect your idea, a provisional patent application could be the way to go. You will still need to provide a detailed description of the invention, including instructions on how to make it, along with an informal drawing. If you do not provide these things, your request for a provisional patent could be denied.
Filing for a regular patent application, or RPA is much more complicated and far more expensive. If you plan to file for regular patent protection, it is a very good idea to work with an experienced patent attorney. A patent attorney can guide you through this complicated process and help ensure you have everything you need to pursue your rights and protect your invention with a patent.
It is important to document all of your ideas, including any drawings and diagrams you have made, as part of the regular patent application process. You will need to provide the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office with as much information as possible, including a thorough description of the invention and how it works, complete instructions for making the item and a working prototype if you have one.
The more information you can provide the USPTO, the more likely it is that your patent application will be approved in a timely manner. The patent process can be a long and a complicated one, and the length of the process can really ramp up your costs. By learning as much as you can about how patents work and what is required, you can reduce the learning curve and do at least some of the work on your own. While hiring a patent attorney for some of the steps outlined above can be critically important, doing some of the work on your own can lower your costs without sacrificing the patent protection you need.