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You’ve come up with an amazing invention and now you need to make sure someone doesn’t steal your idea. What do you do? You file a patent. But how do you patent an idea? Here is an overview of the steps in the patent process, so your invention stays safely in your hands.
How To Patent an Idea
Want to know how to patent an invention? You don’t need a lawyer to patent an invention, you can do it on your own and save thousands of dollars. There are patent examiners at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to help you apply for a patent on your own. Do you know how to patent a product? Be sure your invention qualifies for a patent and make sure you’re able to describe every part of your invention. Here are the steps you’ll want to take, but be sure to talk to the USPTO and make sure you’re covering all your bases.
1) Record Every Part of Your Invention
Use a notebook to document every step of the invention process. Describe in detail and draw diagrams of every tweak you make to the invention. Don’t forget to include how you came up with the idea for your invention. If possible, make a prototype of your invention and again, document all your work in the notebook. Be sure to date each entry and sign them along with two other witnesses.
2) Make Sure the Invention Qualifies for a Patent
Just because you have an idea doesn’t mean you can get a patent. You need to show how the invention works and that it is new and never been done before. There can be no other invention like it, therefore it cannot be for sale by someone else.
3) Is It Worth the Money?
Even without using an attorney, applying for a patent costs about $1,500 in fees from the USPTO. That’s not cheap. So before you decide to file for a patent, take the time to research the market and make sure there’s room for you to succeed.
4) The Invention Must Be New
Research your field thoroughly to make sure there are no other developments of an invention like yours. That means searching U.S. and perhaps foreign patents as well as scientific and technical journals.
5) File Your Application with the USPTO
There are two options for filing: a regular patent application (RPA) or a provisional patent application (PPA).
Regular Patent Application
The USPTO examines your RPA to see if your invention is worthy of a patent. This is where you will include your notebook with all of the details and specifications of your invention as well as any drawings or other important information. Make sure you are thorough. Do not leave anything out.
How Much Do Patents Cost?
Filing an RPA can cost anywhere from $1,000 to more than $16,000 depending on whether or not you are using an attorney. If you choose to file the RPA on your own, you’re looking at about $1,000-$3,000. But remember, this can vary depending on the complexity of your invention. Online legal services like LegalZoom can make the process a lot less expensive. LegalZoom came out on top in our comparison of the best online legal services.
Provisional Patent Application
This isn’t an actual application for the patent itself. This gives your patent a pending status for the invention and documents only a small amount of the work and costs less than an RPA. Filing a PPA is something you do prior to filing an RPA to protect your invention while preparing to file your RPA.
What’s required for a PPA?
- $65 for micro-entities, $130 for small entities or $260 for large companies
- Detailed description of the invention explaining how to make and use it as well as a drawing
- Must file an RPA within a year after filing the PPA (if you don’t you cannot claim the PPA filing date)
Recap of Filing a Patent
The USPTO has put together this short video of the process for filing a patent application.
Need Help Filing Your Patent?
All the work required to get a patent can seem overwhelming, but don’t feel defeated. It’s worth it all in the end. Get invention help by contacting the USPTO or use an online legal service as mentioned previously. You can also hire a company to take care of everything for you, check out our article comparing the top invention companies.
Have you ever filed for a patent? What was your experience?