The United States Patent and Trademark Office suggests that inventors follow the following steps when applying for a patent:
Step 1: Is to determine if the invention is patentable.
Before you file for a patent, you should determine if your invention is patentable:
An invention cannot be patented if “(a) the invention was known or used by others in this country, or patented or described in a printed publication in this or a foreign country, before the invention thereof by the applicant for patent,” or “(b) the invention was patented or described in a printed publication in this or a foreign country or in public use or on sale in this country more than one year prior to the application for patent in the United States…”
Even if the subject matter sought to be patented is not exactly shown by the prior art, and involves one or more differences over the most nearly similar thing already known, a patent may still be refused if the differences would be obvious. The subject matter sought to be patented must be sufficiently different from what has been used or described before that it may be said to be non-obvious to a person having ordinary skill in the area of technology related to the invention. For example, the substitution of one color for another, or changes in size, are ordinarily not patentable.
Patent law specifies that an invention’s subject matter must be “useful.” The term “useful” refers to the condition that the subject matter has a useful purpose and operates. A machine that does not perform its intended purpose or does not operate is not useful, and therefore can’t be patented.
Step 2: Is to conduct a search of the prior art.
A search of all previous public disclosures including, but not limi ted to, previously patented inventions in the U.S. should be conducted to determine if your invention has been publicly disclosed and thus is not patentable. While a search of the prior art before the filing of an application is not required, it is advisable to do so.
The following are three search engines where you may search for patents: U.S.P.T.O. , Freepatentsonline , and Sumobrain.
Step 3: Is to file a patent application.
To get a U.S. patent, you must file an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The U.S. Patent Office states “patent application is a complex legal document, best prepared by one trained to prepare such documents.” There are two types of patent applications:
A non-provisional application, which includes: (1) A written document which comprises a specification (description and claims), and an oath or declaration; (2) A drawing in those cases in which a drawing is necessary; and (3) Filing, search, and examination fees.
A provisional application includes a written description of the invention, drawings if necessary, the filing fee and a cover sheet specifying that the application is a provisional application for patent. Claims and oath or declaration are NOT required for a provisional application. The filing date of a provisional application is the date on which a written description of the invention, and drawings if necessary, are received in the USPTO. Provisional application provides the means to establish an early effective filing date in a patent application and permits the term “Patent Pending” to be applied in connection with the invention. Note, provisional applications may not be filed for design inventions. After filing the provisional application, the applicant has up to 12 months to file a non-provisional application for patent. The claimed subject matter in the later filed non-provisional application is entitled to the benefit of the filing date of the provisional application if it has support in the provisional application.