Getting a patent on your new product or service can improve time-to-market, help attract potential investors, and secure future profits through either selling or licensing the patent itself. As new legislation forecasts significant change for US patent law in 2018, here are the most important things for potential patent owners to know, and how to go about getting a patent while minimizing risk.
The full patent application requires extensive notes and diagrams taken throughout the development process, including detailed descriptions of every modification, a clear and thorough explanation of how the invention will be used, and any physical prototypes or models. If you cannot professionally prepare the patent drawings yourself, you will need to hire someone to do them for you at additional cost.
You will also need to do robust research online and possibly in a Patent and Trademark Depository Library to ensure that no one else has patented the same invention. This is a time-consuming process, but in the long run it could save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars if any part of your application is rejected and you are required to extend timelines, re-submit information, or cut your losses entirely.
To claim an invention as intellectual property and gain all related legal rights, you must submit a either a provisional or non-provisional patent application to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Applications can be made electronically or by mail.
Under the America Invents Act (AIA), introduced under Obama in 2011, a “first-to-file” standard (as opposed to the previously existing “first-to-invent”) puts imperative on claiming intellectual property with the government as quickly as possible to secure rights to it before someone else does. Consequentially, inventors intending to patent must often set a claim in motion well before an invention is fully developed or resourced.
In light of this, a provisional patent application (PPA) is frequently advised as a more accessible first step. In short, a PPA allows applicants to claim “patent-pending” status on an invention when it requires continued time in development, further market research, and the securing of investors. Whether it’s a new medical device or recreational product or service, securing a PPA can especially help individuals and smaller start-ups establish authority and attract attention to their invention while it is still in the development stage.
The cost of a PPA ranges from $65 for individuals to $260 for larger companies, and requires relatively minimal documentation compared to a full non-provisional patent application. You must file a full patent application within one year following approval of a PPA, otherwise it is no longer valid for claim.
Between government and legal fees, non-provisional patent applications can cost well into 5-figure sums, which makes it advantageous to develop a clear budget that includes allowances for snags and delays. Government fees are charged separately for every point of application including processing, requests for prioritized examination, any necessary time extensions, and re-submitting information if a part of the application is rejected.
Each application is assigned to an USPTO examiner who is charged with ensuring the invention meets all legal requirements. The long and rigorous process can take up to 3 years to complete. Communication with the examiner is conducted through letters or phone calls until a resolution is reached about whether or not your invention (or a part of it) can be patented.
The AIA, considered by many to be a clunky and non-accommodating piece of legislation, saw patent strength in the United States dip all the way to 12th place worldwide by early 2018, as thousands of prospective patent owners got stuck in legal travail or the sheer expense of the process. In an attempt to rejuvenate the confidence of innovators across the country as well as their prospective investors, the recent introduction of new legislation has attempted to give patent law a facelift by making it generally easier to get patents and more difficult to challenge them in court. There’s little doubt that thousands of independent inventors and organizations supporting innovation will be keeping one eye on Congress in the months to come.
If your product or service idea is truly original, the journey to obtaining a patent is worth the effort. Don’t wait to kickstart the process!