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Every day, inventors develop new and exciting methods and machines that may be valuable to the inventor.  These inventions may either be new systems or improvements on existing systems. Whether you’re an employee or an independent inventor, it is essential to protect your invention by filing a patent.


  1. How Do I File a Patent
    1. Step 1: Determine What Kind of Patent You Need
    2. Step 2: Make Sure Your Invention Qualifies for Patent Protection
    3. Step 3: Assess the Commercial Potential of Your Invention
    4. Step 4: Conduct a Thorough Patent Search
    5. Step 5: Prepare and File the Application
  2. How Much Does a Patent Search Cost?
  3. What Does a Patent Attorney Do?
  4. Consult a Patent Lawyer

How Do I File A Patent?

Patents are filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to secure exclusive rights in an invention for a limited time. Because many new inventions build upon existing discoveries, the patent filing process is more complex than other kinds of intellectual property. Several vital steps span from the prototyping stage to the final preparation of the patent for filing with the USPTO.

Step 1: Determine What Kind Of Patent You Need

There are three types of patents in the U.S.: utility, design, and plant.

Utility patents seek to protect new and useful processes, machines, articles of manufacture, or compositions of matter. Utility patents address the functional and structural elements of a novel invention.

Design patents seek to protect new and original designs for manufactured goods. Design patents address the ornamental and non-functional elements of a manufactured article.

Finally, plant patents are available for anyone who invents, discovers, and reproduces distinct varieties of a plant. Hiring a patent attorney to review your invention is the most effective way to decide which type of patent or combination of patents is best for you.

Step 2: Assess Whether Or Not An Invention Qualifies For Patent Protection

Not all inventions are eligible for patent protection. In the United States, processes, machines, manufacturing methods, compositions of matter, or improvements to any of those may be patented.

Patentability further depends on the usefulness, novelty, and “non-obviousness” of the invention. Usefulness refers to the invention’s ability to perform the function it is designed to perform. For example, a machine designed to create widgets is not “useful” if it does not manufacture widgets.

Novelty refers to the newness of the invention. A patent cannot be obtained if the claimed invention was previously patented or publicly disclosed. As part of your patent application, you will need to draft “claims” that define the scope of the protection sought in the application.

Finally, non-obviousness refers if it would not have been obvious to a person of ordinary skill in a relevant art to make the invention based on the cited prior art.

Questions about your invention’s usefulness, novelty, and non-obviousness are all questions a patent attorney can help analyze and answer. Since the patent application is relatively expensive, taking the time to analyze embodiments of your invention in view of the relevant prior art is essential to help prevent unnecessary expenses.

Step 3: Assess The Commercial Potential Of Your Invention

Many patents involve inventions or new processes that improve efficiency or reduce the cost of existing systems and methods. As a result, your invention may have significant commercial potential. Determining your invention’s commercial potential is a way to assess whether filing a patent is worth the time and money and whether additional safeguards should be taken to protect your invention.

Step 4: Conduct A Thorough Patent Search

One of the most critical steps in the patent application process may be conducting a patentability search. A patentability search looks for relevant prior art in the form of existing patents or published patent applications that may be cited against your patent application. A patentability search may help determine both whether or not your invention is patentable as well as the ultimate scope of the resulting patent.

The exact process will differ depending on who performs the search, but there are some common steps. A patent search generally involves developing a list of terms that describe your invention. The attorney then uses those terms to find existing patents and published applications at the USPTO. The attorney will thoroughly review the documents to determine whether they qualify as prior art to your invention. After the first round, the patent attorney may broaden the search to include non-U.S. patent filings and publications.

Conducting a patent search is a complex and challenging process. Because this step is so important, hiring an experienced patent search attorney is the best way to uncover any prior art that could affect the patentability of your invention.

Step 5: Prepare And File The Application

After conducting a patent search and completing the application, you are ready to submit. At this point, you will need to pay any applicable filing fees. After the application is filed with the USPTO, a patent examiner will review the invention disclosed in the application and perform a search based on what is claimed in the application. The patent examiner will either issue a notice of allowance of the application or will issue an office action rejecting the claims based on cited prior art. If the claims are rejected, a response that either argues against the rejection or amends the claims must be drafted and filed in the application. This process continues until the patent examiner issues a notice of allowance or the application is abandoned.

How Much Does A Patent Search Cost?

A variety of factors contribute to the total cost of a patent search. However, you can expect to pay between $1,000 and $3,000 depending on the type of invention. As a general rule, the more complex the invention is, the more you can expect to pay. This is because more complicated inventions will require deeper research into existing patents and applications.

Although you can conduct a patent search yourself, hiring an attorney allows you to get the most out of a search. Unfamiliarity with what to look for and where to search may result in ineffective and time-consuming search efforts. However, a patent search attorney will have experience conducting these searches and will have a better idea of what information will be needed to assess the patentability of your invention.

What Does a Patent Attorney Do?

A patent attorney has three prominent roles. First, they will help you prepare and file your patent application. In addition to being a lawyer, a patent attorney is someone with a scientific or technical background. As a result, they are better able to understand your invention and the prior art. This expertise is crucial in drafting your patent application and prosecution your patent application before the USPTO. It also means that they are well-equipped to answer your questions about the nature of your invention, its commercial potential, and whether a patent is proper for you.

Second, a patent attorney acts as your guide in selling or licensing your patent. Many inventors wish to benefit from their inventions by licensing or selling their patent rights to others. A patent attorney can help you draft and negotiate licensing or assignment agreements and provide advice on the value of your patent.
Finally, a patent attorney helps you enforce your patent rights. If someone else infringes on your patent rights by using or selling your invention without your permission, a patent attorney can help you fight the infringer in court. If someone challenges the validity of your patent, a patent attorney represents you in front of the Patent Trial and Appeal board.

In all cases, a patent attorney is there to help you with all aspects of your patent. Their combination of expertise makes them uniquely qualified to deal with the kinds of complex and technical issues that arise both in the law and with your invention.

Consult A Patent Lawyer

At TCP Law, PLLC, we have the real-world expertise required to assist clients nationwide in obtaining and enforcing their patent rights. We specialize in listening to your needs and making sure you receive high-quality legal representation. Contact us today or give us a call at (347) 943-1449 to schedule a free consultation.

 John C. Laurence, Esq.

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