How to Get a Patent

What is a Patent

Every inventor has heard of patents, but many are unsure of how to obtain a patent. Before we get into how and why you want to get one, let’s make sure we are clear on what it actually is. A patent is a form of legal protection granted by the government for intellectual property. It gives the owner the legal right to exclude others from producing, selling, or using the protected IP for a certain amount of years. Essentially, it gives the owner a limited monopoly over the protected material.

It is important to note that there are different types of patents that have different limitations.  The two types commonly used in the inventing space are design patents and utility patents.   A design patent covers what an item looks like, while a utility patent covers the functionality of an item.  A design patent protects your idea for 15 years, while a utility patent protects for 20 years.  To qualify for either, the idea must be novel and unique.

What is a Provisional Patent

Oftentimes you may hear someone state they have received a provisional patent. In actuality what they really have is a provisional patent application for a utility patent. Although this may sound a bit confusing, there is a reason this provisional application exists. This application allows an individual to file a much simpler form at a greatly reduced cost to get provisional protection for one year. This allows an inventor time to organize everything needed for a full patent application while benefiting from some limited time protection.

How to Get a Patent

Once you clearly understand the type of patent you need, you can decide how to move forward. We are often asked if it is better to go with a provisional patent first, rather than working with a patent attorney. Generally speaking, we believe if an idea is worth investing in, you should do it correctly from the start. Writing patents correctly is an incredibly detailed and difficult process, which is why specialized attorneys exist. Although working with an attorney can cost several thousands of dollars, the process will be a lot more efficient.

That said, we always encourage inventors to learn everything they can about patents before hiring an attorney.  There are plenty of free resources online to refer to, including the Federal Patent Office itself!  Trident also offers Patents 101, a part of the Inventor’s Launchpad. This seven-part video series walks you through the process to protect your amazing invention ideas!

When Should you File for a Patent

Contrary to popular belief, filing for a patent is actually one of the last things you do. Because patents protect a specific aspect of a design or function, you need to go through development to ensure it is achievable. If you skip steps in development such as rendering and prototyping, you may find your design needs to change to properly manufacture the product. If the design and functionality changes even slightly, you may not be protected under your patent anymore. This is why it is so important to wait as long as possible to file. If you have questions surrounding how to create invention prototypes, read our last blog here.

The other consideration to keep in mind is ideas are not generally stolen during the design and development phases. Typically ideas are replicated once they are successful and on the market. By properly using non-disclosure agreements with firms helping you develop your product, you’ll likely keep your idea under wraps until it is ready to hit the market.

Organizing Your Invention Information

Before you hire an attorney or move forward filing any paperwork, having your ideas and supporting documents organized is very important.  We offer a completely free and secure resource for you to do just that.  We call it the ThinkBank™.  The ThinkBank™ was purpose-built for inventors and allows for easy submission of your product to Trident, should you choose to do so.  Your idea is always owned by you, and you are under no obligation to work with us.  With over 25 years of inventing experience, we created this resource to make your entire inventing process easier from start to finish.

Trident Is Your Trusted Resource

If you decide we may be a good fit to help make your idea real, great! We work with you to plan out the right path for your product to get to market. We’ll advise you every step of the way, including when and how to get a patent. Make sure to check out Patents 101 for more detailed information!

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