You’ve just created an incredible product or new process that can transform someone’s life. You are afraid to make your invention public because you don’t know if others will steal it. The first thing you need to research is a comprehensive guide on how to file for a patent.

A patent will grant you a government license that makes you the sole owner and manufacturer of your invention. As a result, if someone make use of your idea without permission, you can take legal action against them. As a patent attorney who has worked with numerous startups over the past twenty years, I provide important tips and guide to aid you understand the process of preparing and filing for a patent to protect your go-to-market plan and increase your company valuation with IP assets.

Patent filing or patent registration is the first step an inventor takes to protect his/her invention from being misused. Any individual or company that wishes to protect an invention should file a patent protection application. In this way, the patent can protect the new product or a new method.

What is Patent Filing?

Patent filing or patent registration is the first step an inventor takes to protect his/her invention from being misused. Any individual or company that wishes to protect an invention should file a patent protection application. In this way, the patent can protect the new product or a new method.

After you have completed the outline of a patent application and verified that it accurately represents your invention, it’s time to file your application at the appropriate Patent Office. While it is best to complete the process quickly, you also need to be thorough.

Most importantly, it is wise to have an intellectual property expert provider like PatentPC attorneys’ to maximize your application chances of patent issue. Below, we’ll be discussing the different types of patents, benefits, and the steps to complete the filing process with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Preliminary Considerations

Before patenting a product or service, an inventor should conduct thorough market research to determine potential areas of market opportunity. By examining current market trends, an inventor will be able to identify unmet needs and potential gaps, as well as key issues that may arise as a result of commercializing their invention. In addition, thorough market research will uncover potential buyers and licensees for the patentee’s product.

Using market research will allow the patentee to identify similar products and evaluate their profitability and commercial viability. It also allows the inventor to determine potential areas of contribution and underserved markets. Market research also helps an inventor assess whether their invention has a competitive advantage in the market and can successfully compete against the competition. If a similar product or service already exists in the market, the applicant can modify their invention, patent application, and marketing to make it more appealing to consumers.

In addition to conducting market research, an inventor should consider the feasibility of the invention. A competitive marketplace will make the process of securing a patent more difficult. Besides determining the feasibility of the invention, an inventor should develop a business plan for their product. In some cases, this research will require a modification of the product or service. Once an inventor has completed this step, he can proceed with filing the patent application.

The Journey of Patent Filing

The journey begins the moment you conceptualize an invention that can be a product, a process, or a unique design. The essence of patent filing is to secure an official acknowledgment from the government that your invention is unique and hence, deserves protection against unauthorized use.

First Steps in the Patent Filing Process

Before diving into the paperwork, it’s crucial to ensure that your invention qualifies for a patent. It must be novel, non-obvious, and useful. This means your invention should not be something that already exists, it must represent a new way of solving a problem, and it should have a practical application.

Deep Dive into Prior Art: Start with a thorough search of existing patents, often referred to as ‘prior art’. This search will help you gauge whether your invention is indeed unique or if it treads into the territory of what’s already out there. The last thing you want is to go through the filing process only to find out that your idea isn’t as new as you thought.

Crafting Your Patent Application

When you’re confident your invention stands out, the real craft of patent filing begins. This involves detailed documentation, starting from a comprehensive description of your invention to intricate drawings and operational specifics. This documentation must clearly communicate what your invention does, how it does it, and why it deserves patent protection.

Clarity and Precision: Your patent application must articulate the specifics of your invention without leaving room for ambiguity. This clarity will not only help the patent examiner understand your invention but also fortify your legal protection, making it harder for competitors to find loopholes.

Engage with a Patent Professional

While it’s possible to navigate the patent filing process on your own, aligning with a patent attorney can amplify your chances of success. Patent attorneys bring a wealth of experience and can help streamline the process, identify potential legal hurdles, and craft a patent application that stands up to scrutiny.

Strategic Collaboration: Working with a professional can also provide strategic insights into the broader implications of your patent. This might include advice on managing your IP portfolio, planning for international patents if your market strategy is global, or even understanding how your patent can support your business funding and growth strategy.

Continuous Monitoring and Updating

Patent filing is not a set-and-forget process. Once your patent application is filed, it enters a phase of examination where it might face challenges or require amendments. Staying engaged with the process and responding promptly to any requirements from the patent office is crucial.

Adapt and Overcome: Be prepared to make adjustments to your application as needed. This might involve refining the claims of your patent to better protect your invention or responding to rejections with robust arguments backed up by solid evidence and documentation.

Benefits of Filing a Patent

Filing a patent has many benefits. First, it protects your invention from infringement. After registration, your patent is valid for up to 20 years. This helps you to build your brand and protect your product from potential competitors. The following are some of the benefits for filing a patent:

A patent grants you ownership rights to innovation for a specified period. A patent granted for 20 years would, for example, give you complete ownership of your product during the period of time from the date you filed your patent application. This allows you to block others from using, making, or selling your product.

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A patent grants you ownership rights to innovation for a specified period. A patent granted for 20 years would, for example, give you complete ownership of your product during the period of time from the date you filed your patent application. This allows you to block others from using, making, or selling your product.

Foster Business Growth 

Patents are a way for businesses to grow, as they help increase the value and quality of your products. If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur and have a patent product, raising capital from investors will be much easier. Moreover, you can also increase their market share due to their monopoly position.

Be ahead of the competition 

Having a patent for your technology will ensure that you stay one step ahead of your peers. In addition, patents prevent others from using your technology to create new products. This benefit of a patent is useful to deter competitors.

Get royalty

As an Innovator you have the option to license your patent products to other companies and receive a royalty. As a result, it empowers you to expand your business into markets you might not be able to access immediately.

Avoid litigation

Innovators are always working to develop new technologies in competitive areas of research. Hence, these technologies might overlap or be similar. But, patents for your technology can protect you against claims of infringement. To cross-reference your patents, you can work with an innovator working on similar innovations. In this case, both parties benefit.

Securing a Foothold in Competitive Markets

The act of patenting an invention does more than just protect an idea; it cements your presence in highly competitive markets. By holding a patent, you effectively set up barriers for competitors, securing a niche for your startup. This isn’t just about legal protection—it’s about making a strategic statement in your industry that you are here to lead and innovate.

Boosting Investor Confidence

Investors are perpetually scouting for businesses that not only promise growth but also demonstrate the acumen to protect their innovations. A patent does exactly that.

It signals to potential investors that your startup is a vault of unique, market-ready ideas with minimized risks of infringement. This patent-backed assurance can be crucial in funding rounds, making your business a more attractive investment.

Leveraging Exclusivity for Brand Building

In the startup world, differentiation is key. A patent allows you to market your products or services as exclusive, enhancing your brand’s prestige. Customers and clients are drawn to patented products because they offer something unique—that others can’t replicate. This exclusivity can be a powerful tool in your marketing arsenal, positioning your brand as an industry leader in innovation.

Strategic Licensing and Partnerships

With a patent, you hold the keys to potential licensing deals or partnerships that can open new revenue streams. You can license your patented technology to others, creating a win-win scenario where you generate income while still retaining the rights to your invention.

Furthermore, patents can pave the way for strategic alliances, where you can collaborate with other firms to cross-develop or market interconnected technologies.

Navigating Market Entry with Confidence

Entering a new market is a bold move fraught with challenges. A patent can smooth this path by ensuring that your unique products or services are shielded from direct replication.

With this protection, you can navigate market dynamics with confidence, focusing on scaling and capturing market share without the immediate threat of copycat competitors.

What Are the 3 Types of Patents?

Patents protect inventions, discoveries, and inventions that are original and non-obvious. There are three types of patents: utility patents, design patents, and plant patents. Each type has its eligibility criteria and protects one type of invention.

However, one invention can have more than one type. For example, if a person creates an object and wants to patent its functional features and design, they will need to apply for two patents (both utility and design patents). Below is an overview of the three types of patents available under U.S. patent law.

Utility patents

A utility patent covers new and useful processes, compositions, machines, and manufacturing techniques. You can also attain a utility patent for improvements and new uses of existing processes, compositions, machines, or manufacturers. A process is an act or method of performing something.

Usually, it involves industrial or technical processes. Chemical compositions are chemical compositions that can contain a combination of ingredients or new chemicals. Further, machines can be anything, including a computer.

Design Patents

A design patent is a “surface ornamentation” on an object. This could include its shape or configuration. This type of patent protection needs the design to be separate from the object to acquire the rights.

A design patent only protects the object’s exterior, but you should separate the object and its design. You will require a utility patent to protect an object’s functional and structural aspects.

Plant Patents

To protect unique and new plants, one should obtain a plant patent. To obtain this type of patent, the plant must not be a tuber-propagated plant i.e.; the plant cannot be found in an uncultivated form (e.g., an Irish potato).

Asexual reproduction is when the plant is not reproduced from seed but instead by cutting or grafting it. Asexual reproduction is required for plant patents because it proves that the applicant can reproduce the plant.

Types of patent applications

There are two types:

  • Non-provisional patent application
  • Provisional patent application

provisional patent applications

A Provisional Patent Application is filed to establish an early filing date of an invention. It contains details about the invention and relevant drawings that explain how you can make and use your invention. Provisional patent applications however are filed without the need for formal patent claims, declarations, or information disclosure (prior art). 
Application for patent with diagram and pen on desk in office +diagram is copyright free++

A Provisional Patent Application is filed to establish an early filing date of an invention. It contains details about the invention and relevant drawings that explain how you can make and use your invention. Provisional patent applications however are filed without the need for formal patent claims, declarations, or information disclosure (prior art). 

The provisional patent application provides an applicant with a “patent in progress” for a one-year period. The provisional application ceases to be valid after the one-year deadline. In order for its provisions to extend beyond the 12 months of the provisional patent, you must file for a non-provisional patent.

There is no extension for the 12-month period. Therefore, you must file a corresponding non-provisional application during a 12-month dependency period of the provisional application in order to benefit from the earlier provisional application filing.

Non-provisional Patent Application

non-provisional patent application is usually considered to be the “regular” utility patent application”. This is what you need to file in order to have the USPTO review your utility application and grant your patent. That is to say, It sets the filing date for the patent application and initiates the examination process.

A non-provisional patent may or may not result in the grant of a patent depending upon the outcome of an examination by the patent office examiner.

Provisional Patent Applications: Your Initial Guard

The provisional patent application is often your first step towards securing a patent. It’s like planting a flag in the ground, saying, “This is my idea, and here’s when I conceived it.” What makes the provisional patent a favorite choice for many startups is its simplicity and cost-effectiveness. You get to establish an early filing date without the need for a formal patent claim, oath, or declaration.

Strategic Flexibility: This application does not bind you to a full patent application immediately. It provides you a 12-month window to further develop your invention, conduct market tests, or seek funding, which can be pivotal for refining your final patent submission.

Non-Provisional Patent Applications: Securing Your Innovation

Moving beyond the provisional stage, the non-provisional patent application is what you file to obtain the actual patent. Unlike the provisional, this application must be complete with all patent claims, detailed descriptions, and necessary drawings. It undergoes a thorough examination process by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), which decides whether your invention truly deserves patent protection.

Comprehensive Protection: Filing a non-provisional patent application is about commitment to your innovation. It demands precision and foresight. Every claim in your application defines the scope of protection and needs to be articulated clearly to avoid future legal loopholes.

International Patent Applications: Thinking Globally

For startups aiming to operate globally, considering an international patent application is key. This doesn’t mean a single application will protect you worldwide, but through treaties like the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), you can streamline your patent filings in multiple countries simultaneously.

Global Strategy: If your business model includes international markets, securing patent protection in those regions can prevent competitors from replicating your success abroad. It’s a complex process that often requires navigating varying international laws, making early consultation with a patent attorney invaluable.

Choosing the Right Path

Each type of patent application serves different strategic needs. The provisional application is your quick and economical protection, ideal for those early in their development phase. The non-provisional is for definitive protection, ready for formal examination. And international applications are your bridge to global markets.

Tailored Advice for Startups: As a startup, your choice between these applications can influence not just your IP strategy but your overall business trajectory. Whether you’re safeguarding a unique gadget, a revolutionary software, or a novel service, understanding these paths ensures that your innovations have the protection they deserve, aligned perfectly with your business goals.

Written specifications on Patent Filing

The application for patent protection must include a written specification for both provisional and non-provisional utility patent applications. It is usually divided into the following sections.

  1. Title for the Invention.
  2. Cross-Reference To Related Applications – which identifies all U.S. patent applications prior to the application from which the applicant may have benefited.
  3. Background of Invention – that describes the “technical area” of the invention. It also provides information such the problem solved by the invention, known technology, and any failures of prior art to address these problems adequately.
  4. Summary Of The Invention – This provides a summary or general statement about the invention and often highlights the invention’s benefits and solves a design problem.
  5. A Brief Description of the Drawings that describes the subject matter in one or more accompanying illustrations.
  6. A Detailed Description of The Invention describes the best way to practice the invention and gives enough detail to allow those skilled in it to copy and practice it. Cross-references are provided to any drawings.
  7. Claims, that describe the invention to which it is to be protected. Non-provisional patent applications must contain at least one claim. Provisional patent applications do not require claims to be submitted. This section is crucial and defines the legal scope for protection sought. 
  8. Abstract Of The Disclosure -This summarizes the disclosed embodiments to aid in searching for relevant prior art.
  9. Drawings, that illustrate the examples in the detailed description section.
  10. Declaration or Oath – where each inventor declares that they are the inventors of the subject matter in the claims and that they have made or authorized the patent application.

The Blueprint of Your Innovation

Your patent application starts with the written specification, the blueprint where every detail matters. This is your opportunity to speak directly to the patent examiner and future stakeholders about the brilliance and uniqueness of your invention.

Comprehensive Descriptions: Start with an introduction to the environment and the problems your invention solves. This isn’t just about technical details; it’s about storytelling. Describe your invention with enough detail to captivate and educate, ensuring that anyone from industry experts to potential business partners understands its value.

Finessing the Fine Details

Detailed Drawings and Diagrams: Visual aids can transform your patent application from a dry document into an engaging narrative. Include diagrams, flowcharts, and sketches that illustrate how your invention works. These should be more than just supplementary images; they should be integral to your explanation, offering a clear, visual step-by-step guide to your invention’s functionality.

Claims that Claim Attention: The claims section is where the real battle for patent protection is won or lost. Each claim must be crafted to be as broad as possible while staying within the bounds of your invention’s novelty. This is where precise language is crucial—every word can expand or limit the scope of your protection. Consider this as defining the boundaries of your property in the landscape of innovation.

Beyond the Basics: The Strategic Aspects

Cross-Reference To Related Applications: This section is not just a formality. It’s an opportunity to weave a narrative that places your invention within a larger context of ongoing innovation. Reference related patents and applications to build a story of progression, innovation, and continuous improvement.

Background to Build Your Case: Use the Background section to set the stage. This is where you lay out the existing problems, the inadequacies of current solutions, and how your invention changes the game. It’s about setting up the “before” and “after” your invention comes into play.

A Deeper Dive into Descriptions

Detailed Description for Deep Understanding: Don’t just tell what your invention is—show how it works in real-world scenarios. Include examples, potential use cases, and hypothetical situations where your invention could be a game-changer. Make it as tangible and relatable as possible to ensure that the examiner and future readers can see its potential impact.

Abstract of the Disclosure: While it might seem like a summary, the abstract is your elevator pitch to the world. It should encapsulate the essence of your innovation in a digestible format that invites interest and further reading. Think of it as the hook that will catch the interest of potential partners or investors skimming through databases.

Engaging with a Patent Professional

While crafting a patent application is definitely within the reach of inventors, engaging with a patent professional can amplify the quality and impact of your submission. They can provide not just legal expertise but strategic advice on how to position your patent in a competitive market.

Collaborative Crafting: Work closely with your attorney to ensure that every section of your application not only meets legal standards but also aligns with your business goals. They can help turn complex technical details into compelling narratives that resonate with both patent examiners and the market.

How To File For A Patent? (Comprehensive Guide)

Patents are issued only if the invention or discovery is "new and useful." U.S. Patent Law states that an invention cannot be patented if it is not already known to the public or if another patent application or patent was filed with the same claim.
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Patents are issued only if the invention or discovery is “new and useful.” U.S. Patent Law states that an invention cannot be patented if it is not already known to the public or if another patent application or patent was filed with the same claim.

WIPO applies the principle of “first to file”, regardless of whether you are filing a utility or design patent. This means that the patent protection rights will be granted to the first person to file a patent for an invention or design.

Patent filing can be expensive and time-consuming. If you want to get a patent, it is important to begin the process as soon as you can. The USPTO may take between 13 and 18 months to receive your first notification. In addition, the entire process from filing to issuance can take up to 30 months.

The USPTO has provided a comprehensive guide to follow before you file for a patent:

  • Find out if your invention is already patented.
  • Find out which patent applies to your invention (utility, design, or plant patent).
  • Decide whether to file locally or globally.
  • You can decide whether you want to file the patent yourself or hire a patent attorney to do it for you.

After that, you will be able to submit your online application to the USPTO. First, you will require to apply for a customer number (digital certificate) and pay any applicable fee.

The USPTO will review your electronic application and determine whether it is worth the protection. If your patent application has been denied, you may have to file appeals and reconsideration requests.

You will require to pay the USPTO’s publication and issue fees as well as maintenance fees at specific intervals after your patent issue. Below we discuss the cost of filing a patent.

Start With a Solid Foundation: Research and Document Your Invention

The first step in the patent process is often the most critical. Document every aspect of your invention in meticulous detail. This includes technical descriptions, variations, potential improvements, and specific use cases. Establishing a thorough record is not just about preparation for the patent application—it’s about laying a foundational blueprint that can guide your development and protect your ideas.

Engage in a comprehensive prior art search to ensure your invention is novel. This doesn’t just serve to fulfill legal requirements; it’s a strategic exploration of the landscape. You’ll understand not only where your invention stands in the field but also identify potential competitors and partners.

Tailor Your Application to Meet Legal Standards

Crafting your patent application involves much more than just filling out forms. It’s about presenting your invention in a way that highlights its uniqueness and utility. Start with a clear and concise abstract that captures the essence of your innovation. Follow this with a detailed description that not only explains what your invention does but also how it does it, delving into the technicalities that set it apart from existing technologies.

The claims section is where the real protection lies. Each claim must be precise, defining the boundaries of your invention’s functionality and scope. This is the area where legal expertise is invaluable. A seasoned patent attorney can sculpt your claims to ensure they offer the broadest possible protection without overreaching into unpatentable territory.

Engage the Right Professionals

While it’s possible to navigate the patent process independently, the complexity of patent law makes it advisable to engage with professionals. A patent attorney or agent can provide crucial insights and help avoid common pitfalls. They can streamline the process, handling the bureaucratic and legal intricacies of patent filing while you focus on refining and expanding your business.

Plan for the Long Haul: Post-Submission Strategies

After submitting your patent application, the process is far from over. The examination phase begins, which can involve correspondences with the USPTO, including responses to office actions, amendments to claims, and potentially, appeals. Each of these steps requires strategic decisions that can affect the fate of your patent.

Simultaneously, continue to innovate and refine your invention. Patent pending status can already provide a deterrent against competitors and adds a layer of credibility to your business, which can be leveraged in discussions with investors and partners.

Leverage Your Patent Strategically

Once your patent is granted, it becomes a critical asset in your business strategy. It can be leveraged to secure funding, enter markets, and negotiate partnerships or licensing deals. Your patent is not just a legal shield—it’s a business tool. It signals to the market that you are a serious competitor and innovator, capable of defending your technological turf.

Continuous Learning and Adaptation

Stay informed about changes in patent law and innovations in your field. The world of technology moves fast, and what is groundbreaking today may be obsolete tomorrow. Use your patent as a stepping stone for continuous innovation and as a means to sustain and grow your business in a competitive market.

How Much Does Filing a Patent Cost?

Patent  filing cost include filing fees, drawing fees, and lawyer fees.

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A patent application cost can be broken down into three parts: filing fees, drawing fees, and lawyer fees. Patents can cost from $900 for a DIY application to $5,000-10,000+ with the assistance of patent attorneys.

In addition, the complexity of a filing will determine the cost of the intellectual property attorney fee. These are the average fees law firms charge for filing a utility patent application. These costs do not include amendments after rejection by the USPTO of an initial application. As a result, additional attorney fees might apply. In addition, each round of amendments requires more fees from attorneys.

Avoiding objections

During the patenting process, you must consider possible objections and make sure your application contains all the relevant information. In the United States, patents may be denied because they do not cover certain laws of physics, abstract ideas, or things found in nature. For example, Samuel Morse tried to patent the Morse Code, but his claim was rejected because electromagnetism is not an invention.

While there are a few ways to avoid objections, you need to first understand what they are. While some patent examiners use the terms rejection and objection interchangeably, they refer to two different types of denials. Objections are denied when a claim is not based on the invention and can be appealed to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board or the Director of the USPTO.

The Initial Investment: Filing Fees

Filing a patent isn’t just about having a groundbreaking idea; it’s also about investing in securing your intellectual property. The USPTO charges a basic filing fee, but this is just the starting point.

For small entities, such as startups, the fees are generally reduced—this includes fees for filing, searching, and examination, which are the three main components you need to budget for initially.

The Drawings: Bringing Your Ideas to Life

Your patent application must include detailed drawings that accurately depict your invention. These drawings are crucial as they provide a visual understanding of your innovative concept.

Hiring a professional patent illustrator can vary in cost depending on the complexity of the drawings required. It’s an investment that enhances the comprehensibility and the enforceability of your patent application.

Legal Expertise: Hiring a Patent Attorney

While it’s possible to file a patent on your own, partnering with a patent attorney can increase your chances of success significantly. Attorneys can help navigate the complexities of patent law and ensure that your application is robust and comprehensive.

Attorney fees can vary widely based on their expertise and the specifics of your invention. For a full patent application, you might be looking at legal fees ranging from $5,000 to $15,000 or more. These professionals not only guide you through the filing process but also offer strategic advice on how to use your patent as a business asset.

Long-Term Costs: Maintenance Fees

A patent is not a one-time cost. Once granted, maintaining a patent requires additional fees at 3.5, 7.5, and 11.5 years after the date of the patent grant.

These maintenance fees keep your patent active and can be quite substantial. For startups, planning for these costs should be part of your long-term financial strategy to ensure continuous protection of your intellectual property.

International Filing: Going Global

If your business strategy includes entering international markets, consider the costs associated with filing patents abroad. Each country has its own set of fees, and the process can involve multiple translations and local legal fees.

Utilizing the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) can streamline this process but involves its own set of costs. International patent protection is an investment in your company’s global competitiveness and requires careful financial planning and professional guidance.

Strategic Spending: Maximizing Your Patent Budget

Investing in a patent should be part of a larger business strategy. Consider the potential return on investment that a patent could bring through licensing deals, enhanced market position, and even attracting investor funding. Each dollar spent on the patent process can be a step towards greater profitability if aligned with your business goals.

Now Over to you

PatentPC consults with you to help determine the best filing strategy to suit your business’s short-term and long-term goals. Therefore, No matter how many patent applications you need or how large your IP portfolio is, we can offer customized solutions to help you establish patent protection. For more information for a comprehensive guide on filing for a patent, contact us.