How to Register a Patent in the US
If you’ve invested your time, effort, and finances toward creating a new and useful product such as a computer program, equipment, design, or medication, it is only fair that you reap the rewards of your labor and protect your invention from indiscriminate use. Intellectual property law provides a way for you to secure your invention and exercise full ownership rights over it through patent protection.
Getting a patent means acquiring a “property right” over your invention from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Once granted, this property right forbids others from using, making, selling, or offering the patented invention for sale in the United States or importing it into the United States. The exclusive rights granted by a patent are generally valid for 20 years from the application filing date.
An issued patent also allows the inventor to make profits from the manufacturing or selling of a particular invention. However, the process of obtaining a patent could be lengthy and complex, which could deter many inventors from registering. This doesn’t have to be you. With the help of an IP Attorney, you can avoid the stress of registration while reaping the full benefits.
The Patent Application Process
Generally, the following steps are involved in obtaining a patent:
Not all inventions qualify for the patenting process. The Patent Act specifies the requirements for a patentable invention which are summarized as follows :
- The invention should be new.
- It should be useful.
- The invention should not be readily obvious to a person having ordinary skills in the field where the prospective patent belongs.
You also need to determine the kind of patent that your invention needs. Generally, there are three types of patents; utility, design, and plant patents.
Utility patents protect the usage and working of the invention, while design patents protect the look of the invention. Plant patents protect the discovery of new and distinct plant varieties through asexual reproduction.
The procedure for registering each of the different kinds of patents varies. Hence, it is essential to determine which is appropriate for your invention before you apply.
The patent system operates on the “first to file” principle. If a patent already exists on a similar previous invention, the patent application may be rejected.
So before you can register a patent, you need to conduct a thorough patent search of the patents in the area or field where you’re seeking registration.
The Patent Application
This is a critical step, and a poorly drafted patent application increases the chances of rejection during the patent examination process.
Patent applications could be provisional or non-provisional. A provisional patent application may not meet all the legal requirements but is filed to establish the patent filing date, pending the submission of a non-provisional application.
The different patent types have different application requirements, but there are some common factors between them.
Generally, patent applications should state the following:
- The title of the invention
- An abstract
- Background information
- A summary of the invention
- A detailed description of the invention and the benefits it offers.
Patent applications should be submitted to the USPTO in English, either in writing or via the online filing system.
The claims submitted with the application determine the exact scope of the protection granted. Hence, it is essential to adequately describe the invention and all it entails.
Applicants are also required to pay appropriate filing fees. The specific amount required for each type of patent varies and may be subject to change by the USPTO. So, before making any payment, it may be best to confirm the correct amount and other registration requirements from the USPTO website.
Response From the United States Patent and Trademark Office
After filing your patent application, the USPTO will classify your application within three months from the application date. If your application is incomplete, you’ll receive an Office Action from the USPTO. This is a letter that notifies you of the deficiencies in your application and gives you a timeframe to correct the errors.
Once your application is complete, it will be assigned to an examiner. The examiner will assess your application to make sure it complies with the requirements of the patent law. Patent examiners also review “prior art” to ensure no similar patents have been filed. Anything that is “related, relevant, and similar” to your invention is considered prior art. During the patent examination process, patent examiners review published papers, books, or dissertations that relate to your patent application.
If the examiner thinks your application does not meet the legal requirements, they’ll explain why and give you a chance to make amendments or argue your case.
If the application is allowed, an issue and publication fee needs to be paid to the government.
After you receive your patent, you’re also required to maintain it periodically.
How Long Does the Patent Process Take?
The entire patent examination procedure can take several months to conclude.
If you filed a provisional application, the invention is labeled as “patent pending,” and the provisional application establishes an earlier filing date. However, to maintain the existing date, a non-provisional application should be filed within one year; otherwise, the priority date may be lost. If anyone else registers a similar invention after then, you might be unable to register yours subsequently.
What Is a Poor Man’s Patent?
A poor man’s patent is a concept that says that by writing a detailed description of your invention and mailing it to yourself, you can establish the date of the invention and use it against others to prove an earlier date in case of a dispute over the date.
The concept became popular as many believed this was a cheap, quicker, and easier way to protect an invention. However, the truth is that a poor man’s patent is a myth and does not hold any protection under patent laws.
In 2013, the “first to file” rule became applicable in the US. This rule establishes that the first to file a patent with the USPTO gets priority over the patent. Thus, protection from patent infringement is only granted to those with an actual issued patent from the USPTO.
The Benefits of Hiring a Patent Attorney
Applying for and obtaining a patent is a multi-faceted, long, and complex legal process. After the patent searches are done, the application needs to be drafted comprehensively in line with the applicable intellectual property laws. Even a tiny mistake can be costly and may lead to rejection. A poorly drafted application could also weaken or limit the scope of patent protection for the invention.
Given the technicalities and details involved, it might be better to allow a patent attorney to handle your patent application on your behalf.
A registered patent attorney is not only aware of the requirements of the application but is also knowledgeable about the potential objections and legal complications that may arise. Having a patent lawyer right from the start of the application lessens the chances of rejection and helps avoid unnecessary delays due to procedural issues.
Get Patent Registration Help From the Evergreen Valley Law Group
At the Evergreen Valley Law Group, our team of patent professionals and patent attorneys are experienced in providing clients with the technical, legal, and business strategy needed to obtain strong patent protection over their inventions.
We provide complete patent services for many industries and technologies and are committed to offering outstanding services to our clients.
Contact EVLG Lawyers to learn more about how you can patent and get intellectual property rights for your invention. We’d be glad to help.