How to Patent an Invention or Idea

If you have an idea or invention that you feel may be patentable you’ll want to first ask yourself three questions. Is it:

  • Original- this means your invention has to be 100% original
  • Non-Obvious- this means the invention must be different than what exists
  • Useful- the invention must serve a useful purpose

Note that an idea can’t be patented. The person who has the foresight to turn an idea into an invention and then patent it, will be the recognized owner of the invention.

Steps to Patent an Invention

Do a patent search- You want to be sure the idea hasn’t already been patented. So, a thorough search to determine whether or not a patent already exists needs to be done.

You can use the search tools on the website of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website (http://www.uspto.gov) to see what patents have been granted.

Determine the patent type- According to the patent office, there are five types of patents:

  • A Utility Patent can be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, compositions of matter or any new useful improvement thereof.
  • A Design Patent may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original and ornamental design for an article of manufacture
  • A Plant Patent can be granted to anyone who invents or discovers an asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant.
  • A Provisional Patent is a less expensive alternative to filing a non-provisional patent but it’s only good for 12 months. Then you have to file a non-provisional patent.
  • A International Patent may also be filed

Once you determine the type of patent your invention falls under, then you file the patent. Patent forms are available at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website.

Patent Form Information

When you complete a patent application, you’ll have to provide the following information:

  • A written document which comprises a specification (meaning description and claims) and an oath or declaration
  • A drawing in those situations where a drawing is necessary
  • Filing, search and documentation fees

Filing a patent can be complicated. Getting it done right and in a timely fashion may be worth a consultation with a patent attorney.

Fees can run into the hundreds of dollars. For example, for a utility patent, the current filing fee is $330 or $165 for a small entity.