Patents protect intellectual property and keep your competitors from copying your design. Filing for one can be a process if you’re not prepared.
Having a patent can protect your ideas and designs and prevent others from replicating them. The process for filling out the necessary paperwork can be lengthy, and it’s one best done with the assistance of a patent attorney.
Understanding Types of Patents
Depending on what it is you want a patent for, you’ll choose one of the following:
- Utility Patent: for invention or discovery of a process, machine or composition of matter.
- Design Patent: for invention of a unique utility or ornamental design for a product.
- Plant Patent: for discovery and reproduction of a new variety of plant.
In addition to these three types of patents, there is also what’s called a provisional patent application, which lets you file your ideas and drawings early to “lock them in” before your competitors do. The advantage is the fees for this are lower, and you have time to gather the necessary proof that this is your idea. A provisional patent doesn’t fully protect your idea until you then file for a full patent. You have one year before you have to submit all paperwork for your non-provisional patent. During this period, you can use the term “patent pending” to refer to your product or design.
Before You File
As soon as you have your amazing idea, start keeping copious records. Include dates for tests and research. If someone has filed a similar patent, this record log will be what gives you the chance to prove you came up with your idea first.
You may have heard of the idea of mailing yourself your idea so that your idea will be postmarked with the date you came up with it. This doesn’t actually stand up in court, so you’re better off sticking with the log book.
Filing a Patent
The patent application process is one that takes time, so be sure to allow plenty to take care of it. Even if you do choose to hire a lawyer to help you, it’s a good idea to take a stab at the paperwork on your own, and then let your lawyer help you polish it up.
Start with a patent template. Review it fully to understand what you’ll need to put together. Next, search for patents to make sure your idea hasn’t already been patented, or that your idea is different enough from what’s out there.
Then, describe your idea or draw out your design in as much detail as possible. Make sure to include any dates when you came up with the idea. Work to use more technical language in your description. Refer back to the records you kept, and make copies of them to turn in with your application.
Fill out the application in detail, then take it to your lawyer to review. He may ask for more details or evidence of your research.
Once You’ve Filed
Now comes the waiting game. It can take up to three years to get your patent approved. The Patent Office may ask for more information from you, but if you have a good lawyer, the process should go smoother.
Filing a provisional patent costs around $300, while a full on patent can run several thousand dollars, depending on whether you employ a lawyer or not, and how much the lawyer charges. It’s a big investment, but one that may save you tens of thousands over the years by protecting your product.
Once your patent is approved, no one can use your ideas to design products. If they do, you have legal recourse and can sue them.
Should you sell your company or hand all the control over to a business partner, you may need to transfer ownership of your patent through an Assignment of Patent.