I will try to illustrate the inventing-patenting process from my point of view based on my personal experience. |
Disclaimer: This is not legal advice of any sort.
I am an inventor not a lawyer.
Educate yourself about the entire inventing process, read books, network with other inventors and stay informed.
Watch out for invention promoters and specially for those that advertise on TV - 99% of them are fraudulent.
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Such subjects as developing an idea, getting a patent, selling or licensing an invention and the problems encountered in the process are likely to be discussed.
Don't forget to check the
General Patenting Information list from PTO. It has all subjects linked to the U.S. PTO, for a more accurate answer. If you have an idea that you think is original follow this simple steps:
1. Get paper and pencil and write everything down, make sketches, calculations, everything necessary to convince you that the invention works.
2. Next explore the market place for similar products. If is a consumer product that will be sold in stores, go to these stores and look for similar products talk to store managers, for an industrial product search through
The Thomas Register or Harris InfoSource and find manufacturers or distributors of that product, contact them and ask for product specifications and price.
You may also go to them and get their input about the real needs or performance your product must address.
3. Compare your invention with what you find out there, in terms of novelty, usefulness, productivity, market appeal, price, ease of manufacturing, etc.
Find out if there is a real need for your invention and that your invention is fulfilling this need complete. Go out and talk to the future users of your invention and find out their opinion about the need and what they want to see in a new product.
4. If your invention is better than the products you found on the market and has a good market potential, you would want to patent it.
If your invention doesn't have any or limited commercial potential drop it.
Remember that marketing the new product will take 90% of your resources.
*** Only 2% of all patented inventions reach the market, because the inventors don't rigorously evaluate their invention before spending money on patenting and product development.***
A patent search is the first step in obtaining a patent. The patent attorney bases his patentability opinion on the patent search.
If someone else has patented an invention that is similar to yours or, as the patent examiners say, anticipates your invention, then you are not entitled to patent protection.
Before spending your money, make sure that your invention is novel by doing a preliminary search on the Internet or at a library. To do your own preliminary patent search you need to find the proper Classification for your invention.
Preliminary search can be done free on the Internet at
US PTO website.
You may also consider the Patent&Trademark Depository
Libraries situated in all major US cities. Just check the list and get a location near you. At PTDL you will do a more accurate search, but it will take a lot of time. The librarian will help you with the searching steps. You may find a previous patent showing a similar (if not exact) invention.
For more information on patent search read this Patent Search Tutorial
It is important to have a professional patent search and patentability opinion done to make sure that you don't spend thousands of dollars on the patent application preparation and fees only to be later rejected by the Patent Office.
A professional patent search is about $250-$800 including the patentability opinion.
Our members and visitors can get a patent search for only $240. The search is conducted by PSI at the USPTO search room.
5. To patent an invention it takes besides technical knowledge two things - time and money.
The PTO fees are always changing, go to the USPTO for the most recent fee schedule.
It takes anywhere from 12 months to 2 years to get a patent.
6. If you have the necessary funds, go to a registered patent attorney or patent agents and make a deal. They charge around $2,500-$6,000 depending on the amount of work.
Find a patent attorney or patent agent that don't charge for the initial visit and will charge you a flat fee to do the work.
Use only PTO registered patent attorneys or patent agents and ask them about their expertise, it may be in chemical, mechanical or electronics field etc. No patent attorney or agent is specialized in all fields. Build and test a small-scale prototype as soon as possible. It will prove to you and later to others that it works.
Keep clear and complete records of your invention.
7. If you don't have enough money for a patent attorney or patent agent, but enough to cover the fees, patent it yourself. To patent your invention yourself is not impossible, but is not easy.
You have to spend a lot of time studying the process of patent application drafting, technical drawing and claim writing.
NEW! You can file your Patent Application on line... details here. *
8. If you are not confident in your final patent application draft you can have a patent attorney or patent agent proof read your final application for about $500-$1,000.
9. If you don't have either time or money for fees, try to find a partner with money and split the invention's royalties with him.
10. Just remember if you publicly show, market or publish the information regarding your invention, then you have one year to file your patent application. You may, under confidence (i.e. non-disclosure agreement) disclose it to any individuals, at no disadvantage time-wise, to your ability to apply for a patent either now or in the future.
The one-year rule applies only to US patents. In most other countries you loose the right to file for a patent immediately after your public disclosure. There is no one-year grace period.
11. A recent program called Provisional Patent Application (PPA) helps you establish a priority right for your invention. It is a inexpensive way ($100) to show others that your invention is patent pending.
PPA will not result in a patent itself you have 1 year to file a regular patent application.
To participate in this program you have to send a copy of the description of your invention to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Be sure that the document contains a clear and complete explanation of the manner and process of making and using the invention in sufficient detail to enable a person having ordinary knowledge in the field of the invention to make and use the invention.
The PPA should include drawings or sketches, no claims being necessary.
If you will file a regular patent application it can not be different from the description presented in the PPA to be able to claim priority rights. To learn more on PPA go to the Provisional Patent Application official PTO website and read.
If you decide to file your own PPA there is a very easy to use software that will help you complete your own PPA called Patent Wizard . It has everything you need to file.
12. The Disclosure Document Program is a service provided by the U.S. PTO, that will accept and preserve for 2 years a paper disclosing the invention and signed by the inventor.
The Disclosure Document is not a patent application and the date of receipt will not become the effective filing date of any subsequent patent application. To participate in the program send a clear description and drawings (2 sets) of your invention to the PTO. Include a self-addressed envelope and $10. You will receive one stamped set back as proof.
It is a sure way to protect your invention under the "first to invent clause".
Buy books that describe the process, a good book is Patent It Yourself by David Pressman. More books on the invention patenting, marketing, and other inventor's related subjects are found at
our InventNET Bookstore.
Read these books and also get some patents preferably related to your invention to see how the invention is described, drawings are made and claims are written.
After filing your application you can place "PATENT PENDING" on your presentation paper and on your product.
Marketing your invention
You have established by now that your invention is both unique and marketable. Make a plan of how you will make money with that invention. You can sell or license your invention to others or you can start your own business based on your invention.
There are many books to help you understand the
invention marketing process like The Inventor's Bible, by Ron Docie, Sr.
Stand Alone, Inventor!
by Robert G. Merrick or Bringing Your Product to Market by Don Debelak. Marketing your invention should start immediately after you filed a patent application, because it takes a lot of time and effort to sell or license an invention. You can do it yourself or find someone else to do it for you.
Never pay any money up front to anybody, if they believe in your invention they will do the marketing for a percentage of your future royalties. Make a list of manufacturers and possible users of your product. Contact the company's managers, present yourself as a product developer not as an inventor and arrange a meeting.
Do not send them any written presentation of your invention without a signed non-disclosure agreement. Make a prototype that will show and demonstrate your invention's performances better than words. Participate at specific trade shows and inventing shows. Learn how to finance your own business based on the product you invented.
Look for partners or venture capital to finance the business.
At a last resort contact a contingent-fee invention broker to sell or license your invention to manufacturers.
Do not contact or use any Invention Submission type companies that charge you money in advance. Inventor, be aware of
invention SCAMS, they are out there. Do not market your invention until is protected.
The subject of inventing/patenting is vast and is not my intention to present it
here in a complete form.
Consider this short presentation as a starting point in your research.
Please read the Neustel & Zimmer Successful Inventing Approach for more information on the invention process.