1. Why do I need a Patent?
A patent is the only way to protect your idea. Patents are necessary to gain a market advantage and/or to license your invention. Without a patent you have no ownership rights to offer interested parties and no monopoly in the market, thus inviting competition and “knockoffs.” A patent should be the first step in your entrepreneurial endeavor, as attempts to market or sell your invention prior to having a patent on file may prevent you from ever obtaining one (see 35 USC § 102).
2. Why do I need a Patent Attorney?
Patents are the most complex legal instrument in existence and take great skill and training to properly prosecute. Only certain attorneys are licensed to practice patent law and represent inventors in front of the USPTO. Unqualified individuals may mislead you, provide inaccurate advice, and cause irreparable harm that may prevent you from ever obtaining a patent. Inventors that attempt to represent themself in front of the USPTO rarely succeed, end up losing large amounts of money in government fees, cause irreparable harm to their ability to obtain a patent, and typically end up paying more in legal fees later for a Patent Attorney to correct the application.
3. What are the qualifications of Patent Attorneys?
Patent attorneys must first obtain an engineering degree, must then pass a highly complex federal patent bar exam, must then obtain a law degree, and finally they must pass of a state bar exam.
4. What is a patent?
A patent is a time-limited monopoly on your invention, which gives you enforceable rights to prevent others from making, using, selling, or importing your invention (without your permission), in the United States, for 20 years. The government recognizes the benefit of disclosing new technologies and ideas to the public, and for this disclosure they are willing to give you exclusive rights to your invention for a period of time. The basis for granting this right comes from Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution.
5. What is the purpose of a patent?
A patent protects your ideas for a limited amount of time, and prevents others from making, using, selling, or importing the invention. In essence, you obtain a monopoly on your invention for the length of the patent term in exchange for disclosing your idea to the public. Patents are for public interest, they promote sharing ideas with the public in exchange for legally enforceable rights to exclude others from copying your idea. From a business prospective, without patent protection, ideas are quickly replicated and reproduced, and can be sold without your consent. In order to obtain a foothold in the market and remain viable, protection must be sought for your intellectual property. Without patent protection, your ideas may be easily stolen and reproduced on a large scale and you will have no legal remedy.
6. What is the patent process?
The process for obtaining a patent with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is known as prosecution. During prosecution, a nonprovisional patent application is substantively reviewed to determine what aspects are patentable according to the rules and statutory requirements for patentability. An examiner from the patent office will communicate with the applicant and his or her representatives during this process. Amendments to the application are common, as the patent is narrowed in scope to only the patentable matter. There are no guarantees that an application will lead to a patent; however, if at the end of prosecution your application is allowed, the application will be issued as a United States Utility Patent and will last for 20 years.
7. What is a provisional patent?
A provisional application can be thought of as a proof of invention date, but does not offer any enforceable rights in itself (see later questions relating to nonprovisional patents). A provisional patent is an informal document intended to disclose your invention to the USPTO and allow you to claim “Patent Pending” status.
8. What are my next steps after filing a provisional application?
After your invention has been compared to the relevant prior art (similar inventions) and a provisional application has been filed, a twelve month clock begins, during which time a nonprovisional patent application must be filed to obtain the benefit of the earlier filed provisional application. After this timeframe, the provisional application abandons and you lose the earlier filing date. A nonprovisional application includes a complete draft of the patent, including an abstract, description of the field of the invention, description and distinguishing remarks relating to prior art, a summary of the invention, detailed patent drawings and a detailed description of them, a detailed specification, and claims (your legal rights). A nonprovisional application is the only type of application that can result in an issued utility patent.
9. What is the difference between a provisional and nonprovisional patent?
A provisional patent application is a special type of application that preserves an earlier filing date for an invention and allows an applicant to inexpensively get on file with the USPTO. A provisional application precedes a nonprovisional application and is not reviewed on its merits by the USPTO. A provisional application will NOT lead to the issuing of a patent by itself. A later filed, nonprovisional patent application is required for the issuance of a patent. A nonprovisional patent is carefully drafted by a skilled patent attorney and extensively reviewed by the USPTO. Provisional applications are, in essence, a placeholder, and retain “patent pending” status for your invention while a nonprovisional application is prepared. A twelve month clock starts once the provisional is filed, during which time a nonprovisional application must be filed or rights may be permanently lost to the invention.
10. Is a provisional patent valid internationally?
Yes, a provisional patent affords the same right to priority and patent pending status internationally as is does in the US. However, a nonprovisional application must be filed in each country separately (see FAQ for international patenting).
11. Is a nonprovisional patent valid internationally?
Nonprovisional patents must be filed in each country individually. If you wish to file in more than three foreign countries you will want to consider a PCT (Patent Cooperation Treaty) application. PCT application must be completed and filed within the same 12 month time frame if based on an earlier filed provisional application. Filing a PCT application is more complex than filing a standard nonprovisional direct in the US, so the process should be started earlier.
12. What is a PCT application?
PCT stands for Patent Cooperation Treaty and is a type of nonprovisional utility application that sets you up for filing in multiple foreign countries. The nonprovisional application is first drafted and then is filed as a PCT application instead of a straight US application. The PCT application is then examined, including an international search, and a patentability opinion is issued by the search authority. The applicant has 18 months from the time of filing the PCT application (or 30 months from the earliest priority date), to elect which countries to send the application to. Each country elected will examine the application and issue it in their country and under their patent laws. PCT applications are highly complex and expensive and should be started earlier than a typical application.
13. Will I be protected in Canada?
We can file a Canadian patent application based off of your US patent application at an additional cost. Including Canadian government fees, it costs approximately $2,000 to do this. Once filed, the application will be processed under a special program between the US and Canada, called the Patent Prosecution Highway. Under this program the application will be examined and prosecuted in the US and Canada will accept the decision of the USPTO and issue the application accordingly. This program saves substantial time and costs for the inventor.
14. Why does it cost so much to file a nonprovisional patent?
A nonprovisional patent application is a complete application for a patent, and the only type that will result in the issuance of a utility patent. A nonprovisional patent application is considered the most complex legal instrument in existence and, as such, requires extensive skill, knowledge and time to properly prepare. The costs associated with a nonprovisional patent application reflect this level of knowledge and effort.
15. Why would I need drawings made if I already have them?
Patent drawings are a very specific type of drawing, with a number of statutory requirements. The most notable requirements are that the drawings be black and white, line drawings with appropriate shading, line weight, and annotations to tie them to the detailed specification. No solid models, pictures, or color drawings are allowed. If drawings are not done correctly the USPTO will reject/object to the patent, which may result in added time and cost.
16. Can someone make a minor change and get away with stealing my patent?
Not if the patent is drafted correctly by a skilled patent attorney. Our goal is to obtain you broad patent coverage, which will cover your general functionality and protect various alterations to your invention. See below FAQ relating to prosecution.
17. What is prosecution and why may I need it?
A patent is a very strategic legal document. The skill in drafting a patent results in broad, enforceable rights that encompass a wide range of variations to your invention. What this means is that someone can’t change a bolt, dimension, or other small design feature and get away with stealing your invention. A patent is initially drafted with very broad legal rights (claims). The USPTO will make us narrow these rights in the prosecution phase. This “over claiming” and then narrowing is known as prosecution and ensures that you receive the absolute broadest, strongest, and valuable rights possible. If there were no prosecution then it means you could have had stronger rights than you actually received. Keep in mind that having a patent is not what matters; rather, having a strong, enforceable patent that cannot be easily stolen is what matters. A weak patent may turn out to offer minimal to no actual rights or value.
18. What skills does the Invention Protection Law & Research Group have?
The Invention Protection Law & Research Group is an intellectual property law firm that focuses on retaining rights for inventors through patent protection. We have experience in all technology fields, have conducted nearly three thousand prior art searches, and have filed more than two thousand patent applications. We only employ registered patent attorneys/agents. Each of our patent attorneys has a degree and background in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, biochemical/biomedical engineering, manufacturing engineering, systems engineering, civil engineering, and/or aerospace engineering.
19. How do I begin the process of securing rights to my invention?
To begin the patent process you can contact IPLRG directly by phone or email to speak with an attorney. Alternatively, you can fill the disclosure form and submit that to us for review prior to speaking with us. You may inquire about our services by emailing us at info@IPLRG.com or calling us at (888) 544-6345. We will respond to your request immediately or within 24 hours.