Do you actually need patent help when applying for a patent for your invention? According to many legal experts, the answer is “no’. You can actually do the work yourself, saving thousands in legal fees, and then seek assistance only if you run into difficulty. Here is the process for filing a patent without the help of a lawyer.
Document the process of invention. Even before you seek a patent, you should carefully record all the steps you take in creating your invention. This will be very helpful to you later in proving its originality and helping you fight allegations of patent infringement. Keep a log of every step you take, including diagrams and illustrations. If appropriate, you may also want to build a working prototype that you can use to demonstrate how your invention works.
Make sure that your invention qualifies for a patent. Just because you have what you believe to be a unique idea does not mean that it is patentable. You should make sure that your invention qualifies for a patent. This means demonstrating that it works and that it is a new idea. Even if it is a variation of an existing invention, you may still be able to patent it if you can show that it is different in some important way from all other past inventions. Finally, it should be ‘nonobvious’, meaning it is a surprising development that not anybody could have come up with.
Ask yourself, is it worth patenting? The process of filing a patent can be a costly one, both in time and money. Thus, you have to ask yourself, can I make money from my invention? Is there commercial potential in it? You should research the market to see if there is a demand for your invention before you start the patent process.
Perform a comprehensive patent search. This is one of the more arduous steps in seeking a patent. In order to ensure that your invention really is a unique one and that a similar invention has not been patented already. This means that you will have to do a patent search, not just in the US but also abroad. In addition, you will have to search technical and scientific journals and related publications to see if an invention similar to yours has been the subject of a paper or article.
You can do a preliminary Internet search on the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office, which allows you to do a search back to 1978 for patents and back to March 2001 for patent applications. You can also do bibliographic searches for patents dating back to 1790, which will give you the patent number, title of invention and name of inventor. Alternately, you can also do a search on Google Patents, which allows you to search for older USPTO patents using text. Or you can do an offline search at a Patent and Trademark Depository Library, where you can get assistance from a librarian.
File your application. There are two types of applications you can file. A provisional patent application (PPA) allows you to claim patent pending status for your invention until you are ready to file a regular patent application. The requirements include an informal drawing of your invention as well as a detailed description of it that explains how it works as well as how to make and utilize it.
Once you have filed a PPA, you have a year to file a regular patent application. If you fail to do so within the deadline, you can no longer claim the filing date of the PPA.
A regular patent application means that the USPTO will start the examination process to determine if your patent will be granted. These examinations will be conducted by a patent examiner that you will correspond with until you come to an agreement as to which parts of your invention will be covered by the patent. This will take from one to three years. You can make the process shorter by making sure that your application is carefully and thoroughly prepared, with all the key elements included. This is the part of the process for which you might want to seek patent help.