Introduction to Patenting Ideas

Learning the basic steps of how to patent an idea is crucial to avoiding costly mistakes.  Some inventors avoid patenting an idea because they believe being first to market is all they need.  Some inventors rush into applying for a provisional patent application without any patent or market research.  All of these inventors are taking the wrong path to patenting an idea.

How to Patent an Idea

Step 1:  U.S. Patent Search

The first step to patent an idea is typically to perform a U.S. patent search.  A U.S. patent search will help you determine if you should spend the money to patent an idea.  While a patent search is not required by the U.S. Patent Office, it is usually the first step in the patent process – particularly for first time patentees.

Step 2:  Prepare a Patent Application for Your Idea

Assuming the patent search indicates that patenting your idea is feasible, the next step is to prepare a patent application.  You have two main options in preparing your patent application: (1) patent it yourself or (2) hire a patent attorney.  Patenting an idea yourself can be very difficult even for the most experienced inventors.  Most reputable people in the invention industry will recommend that you hire a patent attorney to patent your idea.  A patent attorney will have years of experience in preparing and prosecuting patent applications with the U.S. Patent Office which should give your idea the best chance of receiving a patent.

Your patent attorney will send you a draft of the patent application to review prior to filing with the U.S. Patent Office.  If you have any questions or suggestions for your patent attorney, make sure to contact them immediately after receiving the first draft of the patent application – no matter how simple you may believe your question is!

Step 3:  File the Patent Application for Your Idea

After you approve the patent application for your idea, the next step is for your patent attorney to file the patent application with the U.S. Patent Office which will give you “patent pending” status.

Step 4:  Prosecute the Patent Application

After the patent application is filed for your idea, the U.S. Patent Office will perform an independent patent search and send you an Office Action (basically a patentability opinion from the U.S. Patent Office) indicating the patentability of your invention.  Most first Office Actions result in the denial of the patent application.  Your patent attorney will then have to file a Response with the U.S. Patent Office arguing why your idea is patentable.  The Response may also include claim amendments to help improve the patentability of your idea. 

The U.S. Patent Office will hopefully respond with a Notice of Allowance which indicates that your idea can receive a patent.  However, the U.S. Patent Office may send a Final Office Action indicating that the Patent Examiner disagrees with the Response (you can file a second Response and/or file a Request for Continued Examination).

Step 5:  Pay the Government Issue Fee

Assuming you receive a Notice of Allowance from the U.S. Patent Office, you then will be required to pay a government Issue Fee.  After the Issue Fee is received by the U.S. Patent Office, your idea will typically receive a granted patent within 1-3 months.