When applicants are trying to patent their invention they often get the feeling that their patent examiner is an adversary. While it can seem like a patent examiner is pitted against you, he or she functions primarily as a gatekeeper. A patent examiner simply has a job to do.
What is the role of a patent examiner?
In the most general sense, a patent examiner reviews and passes judgment on the patentability of an invention. The examiner serves primarily as a protector of the public interest in intellectual property. It is their job to ensure that if an applicant's invention deserves to be patented, that a patent is granted to the extent allowed by what has been done before.
How are patents examined?
A patent examiner reads the application and seeks to understand the invention the applicant is attempting to patent. Examiners typically have an educational background in the technical fields they are examining in order to ensure they can understand the applicant's invention. When reviewing an application, they search databases - primarily prior US patents, and published patent applications - to make sure the invention has not previously been patented, or published.
As judges of patentability, examiners make decisions on whether or not to issue patents. Patent examiners can reject an application if they have reasonable and appropriate objections. However, when an application is rejected, the examiner sometimes helps the applicant by identifying aspects of the invention that may lead to patentability.
The path to making your invention available on the market should start with a patent application. Do not be deterred by the complexity of the patent process or the fear of patent examiners. You have a great product or idea, so if a patent would further your business goals, why not try to get it patented?