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How To Patent An Idea? – Stepwise Approach
1. Get your Idea Checked/Verified
Before you file a patent for an idea. First, check whether the idea is patentable (i.e., the idea should be completely new and non-obvious) or not. The idea can be checked by performing a patentability search. The patentability search is performed to identify already existing patents or other available documents that are similar or close to the idea. If there is anything like your invention present, then your idea is not novel, and you do not get the patent on this idea.
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So, the search will save a lot of money and time for the inventor. The idea must have real use and be eligible for application. Natural discovery cannot be patented. If the idea is completely new, non-obvious, and meets all the criteria (i.e., the idea should not be a combination of two known ideas, the idea should not be a natural discovery, the idea should not be a method for medical treatment, the idea should not be a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work. etc.) for a patent then, the inventor can proceed to file a patent for an idea. The inventor should first write the idea in some notebook or in any other medium.
2. Keeping a Record of Idea
The inventor will write down the things (related to the idea) on paper or in a word document that will give more clarity about the idea to the inventor. The inventor can start by writing down the problems that will be solved with the idea. The inventor can add sections like what problems are solved by the idea, what are the elements of the construction, how the idea is different from others, advantages of the idea, key elements of the block diagram of the invention, a rough sketch can be drawn, and how the idea can be used (best possible way), etc.
The inventor can also keep a record in a notebook of how the inventor came up with the idea. A good-kept record will provide the inventor with proof that the idea is first thought of by him. He should keep the record from the earliest possible point that will help to protect the idea.
Files such as digital will help the inventor to establish a claim to the invention/idea. Each page should be signed and dated. If possible, make one or more people sign the idea. He should ask the people to sign NDA (non-disclosure agreement) for what they have seen. This agreement will help the inventor to save the idea from leaking. The NDA will clarify that the work done on the idea is owned by the inventor.
3. Preparation Of Prototype
The inventor should build a prototype before filing for a patent. The prototype or a model display all the features in the inventor’s notebook. It should be a model that can be touched or shown to somebody. This prototype helps the inventor to discover fault or areas that can be improved that was not discovered when the idea was written in a journal or a notebook. The inventor doesn’t have to build a prototype for a patent. But prototype helps the inventor in different ways. With the help of a prototype, the inventor gets to know the functionality of the invention.
A prototype helps the inventor to know the areas where the idea can be improved. The prototype can be built using instructions. First, draw a sketch of your idea diagram in the notebook. Develop a carbon copy in the form of the 3-d model. Finally, create a working model that can be on the computer. The prototype helps the inventor to know whether the invention will work or if more work must be done. If it becomes difficult for the inventor to build a prototype, then the inventor must reconsider the drawing or the idea. The prototype will give you a detailed description of the idea you are seeking for the patent.
4. Filing A Provisional Application
If the inventor needs time to prepare a full application, the inventor can file a provisional application for the protection of the idea. The provisional application can be filed without a formal patent claim, oath, declaration, or any information disclosure. The provisional includes a specification, i.e., a description, drawing(s) of an invention, the title of the invention, etc.
With the provisional application, your idea/invention can be protected for one year and within this one year, the inventor must file a non-provisional application including all the material not available in the provisional application.
Another advantage of filing a provisional application is the cost. The cost of filing the provisional application is less than the actual (non-provisional) application. The date on which you file is very important. This is because the US operates under a “first-to-file” rule. Filing a provisional application will give you a priority date for the invention.
5. Hiring A Patent Attorney
The patent process is difficult, so it is advisable to hire a patent attorney that can help in the patent process. The patent attorney can help you to simplify the patent process and their charge are reasonable. The patent attorney should help the inventor to mitigate the risk of money loss involved in the process. If you are first time filing your application, then you should hire a patent attorney. With the help of a patent attorney, you will get ensured that you are doing right, and a good amount of time will be saved.
The patent attorney should have experience in filing patent applications and have a better understanding of whether the idea is patentable or not. A patent attorney will guide in the difficult situations that the inventor will face in the future which can never be thought of by the inventor. The inventor should sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) with the patent attorney to save the idea from leaking. When you are giving an attorney a lot of money, you would expect your attorney to be efficient and help you in every situation.
6. Filing Your Non-provisional Application
When you are done with research, now you can file a non-provisional application. This can be filed using offline or online. The application should contain claims, drawings, the title of the invention, an abstract, a detailed description of the invention, and a summary of the invention. The non-provisional application also contains examination fees, oath, declaration, etc.
The important part of this application is the claims. The claims will describe the scope of the invention. Drafting the claim is very crucial, one or two words will change the meaning of the claim that does not align with the invention. The independent claim should be a broader part of the idea.
7. Publishing Pre-grant Application
After receiving the application, the application will be published promptly after the expiration of a period of 18 months from the earliest filing date. If the applicant requests for an earlier publication, the application can be published before the 18 months from the earliest filing date. An application will not get published if the application is no longer pending and many more conditions that will not allow the application to get published. Only if the application is published, it can act like a prior-art. The examiner can use this published application to reject other party applications using similar invention.
8. Examination & Rejections
When the patent office receives the non-provisional application, the examiner will place your application in a line (queue) for examination. When the examiner takes your non-provisional application for examination, the examiner will search for the prior patents, prior patent applications, and other sources of prior art to determine whether the invention of the inventor is novel or not and meets the requirements for patentability.
The examiner can reject some claims on the basis of the prior art search. When objections or rejections are found, the examiner will send an office action explaining the reasons for the rejections.
The inventor or the attorney hired by the inventor can respond to the office action sent by the examiner. They can draft a written response to the office action which changes/amends the wording of the claims and/or makes arguments on behalf of the inventor why the application should be considered to issue into a patent. If the examiner convinces with the response, the patent is granted.
9. Publishing Granted Patent
If the examiner grants the patent to the applicant, the patent will get published. If the patent is granted to you, no other member, individual, or company is allowed to use, manufacture or sell the claimed invention. Third parties are allowed to oppose the granted patent within a stated period of time on the grounds that the patent does not satisfy the patentability requirements.
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