If you have ever watched the popular ABC television program Shark Tank, you have probably heard one of the “Sharks” ask whether or not a contestant’s business idea or product has been patented. This is an important question because a patent can help protect ideas and products from other people who may be inclined to replicate your idea and try to profit from your efforts.
The patent application process can be intimidating, especially if it is your first business venture. Speaking with an experienced small business attorney with knowledge of the patenting process is strongly recommended.
Overview of U.S. Patents
A patent is a legally valid license issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) that provides an inventor with exclusive ownership rights to his or her particular invention. The USPTO issues three types of patents:
- Utility Patent: The most common type of patent. In fact, over 90% of patent applications are for utility patents. A utility patent affords the inventor of a new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or a new and useful improvement of these things, approximately 20 years of legal protection.
- Design Patent: This patent protects the particular design and look of a product.
- Plant Patent: As the name implies, this affords protection for a reproduced plant that is new and distinct, invented, or discovered.
Who Can Apply for a Patent?
In order to successfully obtain a patent, you must:
- Be the inventor of the idea; or
- Have been assigned the invention by another person;
- Be a legal representative (administrator or executor of the estate) of the deceased inventor; or
- Be the co-inventor (contributing more than money) and apply for a patent as joint inventors; and
- Not be an employee of the USPTO unless the patent is received as an inheritance or bequest
Tips on How to Successfully Apply for a Patent
A critical tip is doing your due diligence prior to submitting the patent application. You need to research your idea or product and make sure that it is eligible to be patented. Generally, to have a patentable idea, it must be new, non-obvious, and useful. Also, abstract ideas and natural phenomena are not patentable.
Another important tip is to make a prototype of your invention. Providing a model or prototype of your invention will enable you to show all of the different features to ensure it meets the three elements described above. It also provides you with a tangible thing that you can present to potential investors and licensees.
Finally, document everything. Keep a sound record of when you came up with the invention, any correspondence related to the invention, etc.
Understanding the Cost of a Patent
In your research, an issue you need to address is whether it makes financial sense to pursue a patent at all. This is because some ideas are great, but they likely will not yield a sufficient return on investment to actually file a patent application.
The patent application process is expensive. Filing a patent can cost between $5,000 to $7,000 for a simple application. For more complex patents, the cost can exceed $16,000 (e.g., a patent for a piece of software).
A good strategy to consider is, prior to filing an actual patent application for your patent, file a provisional patent application. This is a document you file with the USPTO that establishes an early filing date for the subsequent filing for a non-provisional utility patent. It also gives you a “patent-pending” status and the right to use the term “Patent Pending” when making presentations to potential investors.
Speak to an Orlando Small Business Lawyer
As you can see, the patent application process can get quite complicated. You should have proper legal guidance assisting you throughout the process. The Chidolue Law Firm has experienced patent of-counsel to the firm, who handle all types of patent. We are here to help. Contact our office today at 407-995-6567 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.