What is a patent?
A patent is an exclusive right to make, use, and sell innovation. In the United States, if you are filing a utility patent, it lasts for 20 years.
There are other types of patents, like design patents which protect the way something looks, not how it functions. Design patents have a 14-year right.
What is a preliminary patent?
A provisional patent application is not an actual patent in the United States. It acts as a holding place for you to preserve your rights in an invention. The provisional must be followed up with filing a nonprovisional patent application. So there isn’t anything named a preliminary patent, but there is an application process with a provisional and nonprovisional application filing.
What is the typical process when filing for a patent?
- Perform a patent search
- File a patent application with the United State Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)
- Examination of the non-provisional patent application
- Respond to any objections/rejections from the USPTO examiner (Repeat process until USPTO is satisfied. Every response is an extra fee.)
- Patent is issued
What are the differences between provisional and nonprovisional patent applications?
The main differences are:
- Expiration - Provisional patents expire after 12 months without ever becoming a patent.
The non-provisional application does not expire automatically and can be granted to become a patent.
- Examination - Provisional applications are not examined by the patent office for patentability. This means that a poorly written provisional application and a high-quality provisional application will look the same to the patent office because they don’t look at it.
Nonprovisional applications are examined. If the patent is poorly written, it will have multiple problems.
- Claims - Provisional applications do not require legal claims. Nonprovisional applications at least need one legal claim stating precisely what the inventors claims as their new novel or valuable idea.
- Fees - Provisional applications have a lower filing fee. The provisional application fee is not credited towards the nonprovisional application and filing fee. It is an additional fee that allows extra time for the inventor before filing the nonprovisional application.
What is the deadline for the next step after filing a provisional patent application?
Once you file a provisional application, you have exactly one year from the time you filed to complete the next step, which is filing your nonprovisional patent application. If you do not submit this before the 1-year mark or the exact filing date, you will waive your rights to continue with your idea or design.
What are the differences between a design patent and a utility patent application?
In short, a utility patent protects an idea, and a design patent protects the way that idea looks.
How much should I budget for a patent?
We tell inventors and business owners to budget around thirty thousand dollars ($30,000) for a nonprovisional application. This is to expect the worst scenario of multiple objections/rejections from the USPTO.
Is a patent always necessary?
A patent is not needed to sell or market your product. There are tons of products that are sold that are not patent-protected. To prevent others from stealing your idea, we suggest looking into the patent process to see if it makes sense. It is potentially not the right move from the start, but it might be recommended as soon as possible once you or your company can afford the investment.
Can I do my own patent search?
Yes and no… You can search online to see if your idea exists and search databases and stores. However, sometimes you might only be able to find the information you are looking for in a system you need to pay for. Additionally, most patent attorneys will recommend a done-for-you search to assure there is no wasted time in getting approval. We recommend starting with a paid patent search to speed the process up.
Can I file my own patent application?
Yes, you can file your patent application. However, due to the legal language needed and the fees per rejection/objection, we highly recommend utilizing a patent attorney to ensure the patent application process is completed promptly and the patent's wording is correct.
The worst scenario can be getting a patent approved with the incorrect wording and later discovering that your competitors found a back door around your patent.