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How To File A Patent

How to File A Patent: An Entrepreneur's Guide

Amrusha Chati

Amrusha Chati

04 August 20235 min read

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How to file a patent

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    As an entrepreneur, you know the value of an original idea. After all, you've probably built your business around one. That's why you know that intellectual property assets like trademarks, copyrights, and patents are a crucial pillar of that business and your I.P. strategy. But do you know how to file a patent?

    Let's take a closer look at what patents are and how you can get one to protect your I.P.

    What is a patent?

    A United States patent is an intellectual property protection granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). It gives a creator of an invention an exclusive "property right" over it. Patent rights prohibit anyone else from creating, using, or trying to sell or import an invention or design within the USA.

    Now that you know what a patent is, here's a guide to help you navigate the complex patent filing process. We recommend consulting with a patent attorney through this very pivotal step in bringing your idea to life.

    1. Choose the type of patent that you want to file

    First, you have to decide which patent you want to file. This depends on the product(s) you wish to make.

    There are three types of patents:

    • Utility patent

    Utility patents are granted for inventing a new process or a new and useful improvement on an existing process and use, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter.

    • Design patent

    Design patents are granted for inventing a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture.

    • Plant patent

    Plant patents are given to anyone who asexually reproduces, discovers, or invents any distinctly new variety of plants.

    2. Conduct a patent search

    A patent allows an inventor sole right over a particular invention. Its primary purpose is to exclude others from making or using it. That's why ensuring you're not on the other side is essential. In other words, ensure that you aren't infringing on other patents.

    To be eligible for patent protection, you must ensure that no one else has already filed the same patent. Thorough patent searches can help you identify these. You can search for existing patents on the internet, specifically trademark and patent search engines.

    3. Sketch your patent

    Let's say you want to file a provisional patent for an idea, process, or invention that you don't have a physical model or prototype. You'll still need to show a visual representation in your USPTO patent applications. You can do so by sketching your idea, concept, or prototype.

    Depending on the complexity of the design (and your artistic skill), you may choose to draw it yourself, use software, seek professional help, or even use artificial intelligence.

    4. Be able to describe your invention

    The patent process allows you to protect inventions and innovations but demands a certain level of detail. Your patent application should be as detailed as possible. You'll need to describe your invention thoroughly and accurately when you apply for a patent. This'll also ensure more focused protection, which in turn will make infringement easier to prove.

    5. Start a provisional patent application

    The provisional application is a popular place for many entrepreneurs to start. Being a kind of preliminary filing, it's much simpler (and cheaper) than the full patent application. 

    A provisional application doesn’t require a formal patent claim or even a declaration. 

    Provisional applications aren't examined and therefore don't need any prior declarations. It offers the means to establish an early effective filing date when you file a final or nonprovisional patent application at a later date. Meanwhile, your patent will get the status of “patent pending.”

    According to patent law, a patent is granted on a first-to-file basis. This means if a claimed invention precedes yours, the patent will be granted to the one who filed the application earlier. 

    This gives you a distinct advantage over others that is well worth the added provisional patent cost.

    Also, remember that after you file a provisional patent, you must file a corresponding nonprovisional application within the next 12 months to benefit from the provisional application.

    6. File a full patent application

    The provisional application will give you time to work on the finer details of your invention. Once you have all the bells and whistles in place, you can prepare your complete patent application (non-provisional).

    A patent examiner at the USPTO's patent office evaluates a nonprovisional patent application. The patent will be issued only if all the requirements for patentability are met, and the application is accurate and complete. For this, you need to ensure that all the necessary patent documents are in order.

    Incomplete information will lead to delays in the patent filing process which could prove to be costly. You may even need to repeat the entire process.

    After double-checking all your forms and documents, you can submit your application to the USPTO in a standardized format, along with all the required forms and fees based on the latest cost to file a patent.

    7. Hire legal assistance

    The patenting process can be long and sometimes confusing. Taking legal assistance is a great idea. A patent attorney knows the details of the process and can help spot potential problems and discrepancies early on.

    This is primarily because a patent can become a significant investment. Enlisting legal assistance can reduce the chances of rejection, save you money, and pay off in spades in the long run!

    After you learn how to file a patent…

    … it's time for you to be patient. The USPTO can take a few months or even a year to register a patent based on the complexity of your application. But at the end of it, getting a patent is worth the effort for the protection, it'll provide protection to your most valuable ideas and innovations.


    How long does patent protection last?

    Patent protection is granted for a limited period, generally 20 years from the application's filing date.

    Can I patent my idea for free?

    Yes, you can. Though it's a complex procedure, investors who cannot afford to pay for legal assistance can use the USPTO's Patent Pro Bono Program. The program matches inventors with registered patent agents or attorneys who volunteer their time. However, all USPTO fees must be paid by the inventor. 

    How much does it cost to patent an invention?

    The cost of patenting an invention depends on factors such as the nature of the invention, its complexity, the patent attorney's fees, the length of the application, and any objections raised during the examination by the patent office.

    Some countries offer discounts to small- and medium-sized enterprises and applicants filing applications online. In addition, other countries allow expedited examination upon payment of additional fees.

    In addition to the national official filing fees, once the patent office grants a patent, you must pay maintenance or renewal fees, generally annually, to maintain the patent's validity.

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    Amrusha is a versatile professional with over 12 years of experience in journalism, broadcast news production, and media consulting. Her impressive career includes collaborating extensively with prominent global enterprises. She garnered recognition for her exceptional work in producing acclaimed shows for Bloomberg, a renowned business news network. Notably, these shows have been incorporated into the esteemed curriculum of Harvard Business School. Amrusha's expertise also encompassed a 4-year tenure as a consultant at Omidyar Network, a leading global impact investing firm. In addition, she played a pivotal role in the launch and content strategy management of the startup Live History India.