Knowing when to get a patent, or if you even need one, can be a difficult decision. It is important to move forward with the patent application before the invention becomes public. In the United States, you generally have some time after this happens to still get patent protections, but not much. As a result, it is a good idea to start thinking about getting these protections in place before you move forward with sale or a pitch to investors for additional funding.
A step back: What will a patent actually do for me or my business?
A patent offers protection for inventions and designs. It is basically a property right, which means the owner of the patent can exclude others from using the protected information or design. There are generally two types of patents: a utility patent and a design patent. A utility patent works for inventions, improvements, and machines and generally has a 20-year time limit. A common example is the iPad. A design patent works to protect the way things look and can extend to include any surface decoration and lasts for 14 years. An example is the shape of a lamp.
Getting a patent is not an easy process. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) expects the application to include special forms like the utility application transmittal form and fee transmittal form as well as an application data sheet (ADS). Although the ADS is not required, it can help to better ensure stronger patent protections. To give a better idea of the intricacy of these forms, the ADS includes applicant, correspondence, and representative information as well as domestic and foreign priority information. Any inconsistency in the ADS and other paperwork will cause issues with the patent application process.
Moving forward: How do I better ensure the USPTO approves my patent application?
More importantly, how do you make sure the patent granted by the USPTO actually meets your needs? The agency could grant the patent application, but without the right descriptions the patent may not provide the protection you need. The exact timing and process to better ensure a strong, successful patent will vary depending on each invention and the business’ or individual’s interests. As such, it is best to tailor each one to your needs and avoid a fill-in-the-blank approach.