The following might answer some common questions. None of it is intended as legal advice. More accurate and complete information can be found at the uspto.gov (United States Patent and Trademark Office). See uspto.gov, Title 35 USC (US Code), Title 37 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations), the USPTO MPEP (Manual of Patent Examining Procedures), and/or consult an attorney.
There’s no such thing as a provisional patent. There are patents and there are provisional patent applications. It’s like comparing having a job to having a job application. Big difference!
A provisional patent application can be useful for nailing down an early filing date. Before a year passes, a subsequent nonprovisional patent application can claim that earlier filing date. The USPTO is on a first to file system. So, the inventor with the earliest filing date wins.
A patent search is recommended but not required.
Making a working model is recommended but not required. During the process of making a working model, patentable concepts and features may emerge.
Get the book, “Patent It Yourself” by David Pressman. At the very least, it’ll help you ask the right questions of your patent attorney or patent agent.
Generally speaking, once an invention has been publicly disclosed (e.g., used or offered for sale), it’s usually too late for filing international patent applications. If it’s been publicly disclosed for more than a year, then it’s usually too late for filing even in the US.
Let’s say you’re doing a DIY patent search at uspto.gov. And you find a prior art patent at least remotely similar to your invention. On that prior art patent page, click on “Referenced By” to see newer patents similar to the first prior art one you found. And under the heading, “U.S. Patent Documents,” click on the list of patents to see older patents similar to the first prior art one you found. That may lead to a prior art patent that’s even closer than the first one you found. Repeat the process until you zero in on the closest prior art.
The uspto.gov specifies the criteria for a large entity, a small entity, and a micro entity. Large entities pay full price for USPTO fees. Small entities pay about half that. And micro entities pay about half of what small entities do. Roughly speaking, large entities have at least 500 employees. Micro entities have an income of less than about $150k and have less than five previous patents to their name. If you’re neither a large or micro entity, then you are a small entity.
The Claims section of your patent tells other what they cannot do before your patent expires. The rest of the patent should explain how others can readily reproduce and use your invention after your patent expires.
A patent claim is basically a list of parts in a particular arrangement. Generally speaking, a patent examiner will allow a claim if the list of parts and their arrangement cannot be found in the prior art (e.g., earlier patents, publications, etc.).
It seems that the most successful inventors are those that not only patent their invention but also actually sell product covered by their patent. Selling product demonstrates the viability of their invention and can threaten the sale of others competing products.
Be leery of invention submission companies.
“All overnight success takes about 10 years.” ~ Jeff Bezos
“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” ~ Maria Robinson
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