As an aspiring patent-holder, it’s important to learn about the process of filing a patent application. Inventors who aren’t familiar with the patent process won’t be able to help it along in any meaningful way. Obtaining a patent isn’t easy for those new to it, and without at least some familiarity with how the process works, inventors can become easily overwhelmed and unable to move the application process forward. In this article, we’ll break down the basic processes and patient types to help get you started.

Hiring a Patent Attorney

A patent attorney is, in short, there to translate the information you give him or her into the legal language used in your patent application. A patent attorney isn’t absolutely necessary but is highly recommended. A patent attorney works to present your patent in a way that will highlight its unique qualities and patentable features. A good patent application, though, isn’t solely the work of the attorney. He or she will have nothing to work with if the inventor isn’t engaged in the process. Be prepared and willing to give the patent attorney any information they ask for. You may not be as familiar with the process as the patent attorney, so trust that the information they request is relevant and helpful to the process.

Doing a thorough patent search before submitting your patent application is critical. Your patent application needs to describe and highlight the unique aspects of your invention. A patent search will help you to obtain information on any patents that may have some overlap or share similar features with yours. This, in turn, will help your patent attorney in the application process.

It’s easy to believe that because you have searched the internet or local stores for a similar invention and come up with nothing, that there isn’t anything out there that would prevent your application from being approved. Researching existing products is a great first step, but only covers a portion of existing inventions. A professional patent search will uncover much more than a sweep of the internet and local stores.

Something else to keep in mind when considering a professionally conducted patent search? Potential investors in your product may require one, or, if not, may not be as willing to invest if they’re not confident that your product will reach the market. A patent search goes a long way in helping investors be sure that you’re thoroughly invested in the process and have taken every step necessary to ensure your invention’s viability.

Patent Types

A provisional application submission is recommended as soon as your invention is concrete enough to describe. The provisional application can act as a placeholder of sorts until you’re ready to file your non-provisional application. You can file provisional patent applications with each iteration of your invention until you’re ready to begin working on your non-provisional patent application.

In general, you can obtain a design patent or a utility patent. Utility patents cover the way an invention works. Design patents cover the way the invention looks. A utility patent is usually what is being referred to when the term “patent” is used. Utility patents are the best to obtain if you’re able to do so.

Something that’s important to keep in mind is that ideas cannot be patented. However, an idea that is fully fleshed out and can be described with enough specificity is an invention that can be patented. A prototype or working model is not necessary, but a highly detailed description of its workings that can be put into writing is required. You may think you have a simple idea, but it’s possible that what you actually have is an invention!