Briefly, you apply for a patent by filling out a patent application and submitting it to a Patent Office and paying a fee - for example, for a U.S. patent you would apply to the USPTO, United States Patent and Trademark Office.
How is your Legalese?A patent application is a legal document and you cannot expect to "spend one evening filling it out," the better written the patent, the better the protection your patent will produce. Think of it as a contract for your invention, a contract that you or someone you hire will have to create, a contract where every single word has impact.
For example, when describing your invention you write "part A is nailed to part B", somebody else may be able to patent a very similar invention by claiming, "part A is glued to part B." It would be safer to use the word attached or attached by a variety of fasteners.
There are no fill-in type forms available for the most complex parts of a patent application. Yes, you read that correctly. You will be facing blank sheets of paper. And how's your skill at drawing? Most patent applications will require drawings of your invention.
All Inventors Must be Listed on the Patent ApplicationOnly the inventor may apply for a patent, with certain exceptions, and two or more persons making an invention jointly, must apply for a patent as joint inventors. All inventors must be listed on the patent applications.
It's not EasyYou have heard this before, however, it bears repeating, "undertaking a non-provisional utility patent application without a patent attorney or agent is very difficult and not recommended for beginnings."
But Learn How to File a Patent ApplicationHowever, it is highly recommended that you do draft the first copy of the patent application and do a preliminary search for prior art yourself and bring the paperwork to whomever you do hire for a final proof. Those actions will save you money. If you must self patent for financial reasons please read a book such as, "Patent It Yourself" and understand the risks of self-patenting.
Another alternative (some experts do not recommend it - research the drawbacks) is to file a provisional patent application. The much cheaper provisional patent provides one year of protection, allows patent pending status, and does not require writing claims. However, before one year expires you must file a non-provisional patent application for your invention. During this year, you can promote and sell your product and hopefully raise the money for a non-provisional patent. Many successful experts advocate provisional patents and other alternatives as a better path to follow.
A Non-provisional Utility Patent Application Includes:
- A written document which comprises a specification (description and claims), and an oath or declaration;
- A drawing(s) in those cases in which a drawing(s) is necessary; and
- The filing fee at the time of application, a fee when the patent is issued and regular maintenance fees must be paid.
The descriptions and claims are very important to a patent application, they are what the patent examiner will look at to determine if your invention is novel, useful, nonobvious, and correctly reduced to practice as covered in our lesson on patentable.
It takes up to three years for a patent application to be granted. Applications are often rejected the first time and you will often need to amend the claims and appeal (also common).