What to know before Filing a Patent Application
Trenner Law Firm can help you with all aspects of the patent application process. This includes preparing and filing patent applications in the US Patent Office, responding to Examiner rejections, and appealing the Examiner’s decision if necessary.
What can you File a Patent Application for?
You have a new idea for a product innovation or invention. But how do you know if you can get a patent to protect your invention? First, your invention has to be what the US Patent Law calls “patentable subject matter.” This is a legal term for a product, device, method, computer program, etc. Basically anything that is not already existing in nature, or a law of nature. An example of something that cannot be patented is the law of gravity. Second, your invention has to be unique to you. You can’t patent something that someone else came up with, or that is already available. A Patent Attorney can evaluate your new product innovation to help you determine if you have something that might be patentable.
What is the Purpose of a Patent?
Think of a patent as legal title to your invention. Just like when you purchase a new car or a house, you get a piece of paper that says you are the owner of that car or house. You can do whatever you want (at least what is legal to do) with your car or house. Drive your car or live in your house. Or let someone else use it (for free or for a fee). You can even sell it to someone else for whatever price you both agree on. And you can stop someone else from using it.
A patent is the same thing. In fact, a patent application is considered legal title to your invention, even before the patent application is examined or allowed to issue as a patent. The patent application or issued patent grants you the right to use your invention, let someone else use your invention, or sell your invention. But you can only stop someone else from using your invention (by filing a court action for patent infringement) once the patent is granted. This makes sense, of course. There is no guarantee that the your patent will issue until your application is examined and meets all requirements.
You can do everything else after you file the patent application. This includes licensing the rights or outright selling the patent application to a company. Who wants to go around filing lawsuits anyway? It’s better to make money off of your invention rather than go around suing people for infringement.
The U.S. Patent Office issues patents to protect rights of inventors. The purpose of a patent is to exclude others from using, making, offering for sale, selling, or importing your invention for a limited time.
What are the Types of Patent Applications?
Before filing a patent application, it is important to correctly determine which type of patent applies to your invention. The type of patent you need is going to be based on the function and application of your invention. You can learn more about the types of patents from the US Patent Office.
There are three primary types of patents: utility patents, design patents, and plant patents.
There are two types of utility patent applications: provisional patent applications and nonprovisional (or full utility) patent applications
Utility Patent Application: A utility patent is the most common patent that the US Patent Office issues. It protects the functional (or utility) aspects of an invention. These patent applications are applicable to inventions that produce a new and useful result.
Provisional Patent Application: A provisional patent application will never issue as a patent. It will automatically expire exactly one year after it is filed. You must file a full utility patent application claiming priority to the provisional patent application before it expires. A provisional patent application can get you Patent Pending (or Pat Pend) status quickly, and can add up to one full year before expiration of an issued utility patent. You cannot file a provisional patent application for a Design Patent.
Design Patent Application: The least common patent type, a design patent protects ornamental design embodied in or applied to an article of manufacture that is new and original. This type of patent is cheaper and quicker to process than a utility patent but does not protect the functionality of an invention, only the appearance.
Plant Patent Application: A plant patent is issued for a distinct, newly invented or discovered strain of asexually reproducing plants, such as mutants and hybrids.
Which Patent Application Should You File?
You may want to file more than one type of patent application for the same invention. In fact, there are many times that Trenner Law Firm recommends filing both a design patent application and a provisional patent application (later to become a utility patent application). Understanding the types of protection each affords is an important part of the overall strategy for protecting for your invention. A licensed patent attorney can help you decide which one (or more) of these types of patents may apply to your invention.
What Technologies can you Patent?
Any new innovation that is not already existing in nature, or a law of nature itself (like the law of gravity) is patentable subject matter. Here are some examples of types of technologies you may be able to apply for a patent.
Mechanical Devices are the most popular types of inventions clients of Trenner Law Firm file patents for. This category includes everything from toys, household products, simple handheld tools, and “gadgets,” to more complicated technologies like automotive parts, camping and RV accessories, and machinery.
Computers, Software, and Mobile Technologies (“Apps”) is the second most popular types of inventions clients of Trenner Law Firm file patents for. This category includes all computer hardware and software innovations, as well as today’s mobile applications or “apps.”
Electronics and Telecommunications (“Telecomm”) include electrical circuits and electronic devices, and telecommunications such as radio and mobile phone devices.
Energy and Environmental Technologies (“Clean-Tech”) include all types of traditional energy technologies as well as new “clean” technologies.
Medical Devices, Medical Procedures and Biotechnology (“Bio-Tech”) include a wide range of devices, procedures, and applications in the field of medicine and advances in biotechnology.
Chemistry and Chemical Innovations include everything from skincare products, to cleaners and industrial chemicals.
What is Patent Infringement?
Patent infringement occurs when an unauthorized individual or entity engages in selling, using, or making any patented invention in the United States. IYou can sue infringer in civil court. You must prove that the infringer had knowledge of the patent to be awarded damages. You can show this by having the product marked as Patent Pending and later as Patented, by sending a cease and desist letter to the infringer, or by filing a court action for infringement.