Creating a new machine, process, or other new and useful product is rewarding for the inventor. However, it also requires a patent in order to protect that inventor’s intellectual property from theft. In the United States, all patents are approved through the United States Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO. Not all inventors know exactly how the patent process works for them, though, and they may become frustrated by how long the application process can take. Before embarking on getting a patent for any type of invention, here are three essential things that inventors should be aware of when it comes to getting a patent:
1. Different types of patents have different rules. There are three different types of patents covered by the USPTO: utility patents, design patents, and plant patents. Utility patents are for any new and useful process, machine, or other product; design patents cover the ornamentation on a product; and plant patents protect any new asexually reproduced plant. Each one is good for a specific number of years, and all patents require a maintenance fee to be paid at least a couple of times throughout the life of a patent. Inventors need to be aware of how each type of patent relates to their creation before they get started.
2. The patent process can take a long time. One of the first steps with patenting anything is to fill out an application with the USPTO. Once that application is complete, it goes into pending status, which can last for more than a year — sometimes even up to two years or more. This may frustrate some inventors who want to release their products as soon as possible; however, it is also necessary to allow the USPTO time to review the invention.
3. Patent filing may be easier with an intellectual property lawyer on your side. In order to have a better understanding of the application process, hiring a lawyer may be necessary. Inventors will especially want to work with one who regularly deals with the types of patents that they need. Working with an attorney can also come in handy later in the event that the inventor requires patent litigation. This usually occurs if someone else has committed intellectual property theft (known as infringement).
Have more questions about how the patent process works for inventors? Need to know more about your intellectual property rights? Make sure to speak to a patent attorney who has the expertise to help you with your invention.