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What Is a Patent?

A patent for an invention is a grant of property rights to the inventor. A patent is issued by the United States Patent Trademark Office. A patent term is usually for 20 years from the time the application is filed. A patent is only effective within the United States.

Patenting is a time consuming process which can take as long as five years to complete. The process of getting a patent involves filing an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, paying the applicable fees, and responding to office actions.

How Do I Get a Patent?

There are some basic steps before filing an application for a patent at the USPTO. It is advised to conduct a patent search to determine if there are other inventions that are similar to yours. Also a patent search allows you to make sure your invention qualifies for a patent protection. The USPTO has specific rules that can be followed to file a patent.

1. Filing
Assuming you are a first time applicant you will first file an "original application" packet which includes the claims of your invention. Accompanying this application will be any drawings relevant to the invention, a declaration of inventorship, and a power of attorney (when you have an attorney representing your interests). You also have to include an application fee.

2. First Office Action
Once your application is filed with the PTO it is reviewed by a patent examiner trained in the particular field where your invention is relevant. Usually, the examiner will send you a letter asking you questions about your application or requiring you to make changes to your application. These requests are called Office Actions. You must respond to office actions by making the requested changes to your application (called amendments), or you may make an argument to the examiner regarding the objections stated in the office action. This process usually takes about six to eight months.

3. Second Office Action
After reviewing your response to the first office action the examiner can either issue the patent or send you a second office action. A second office action usually addresses new problems that your response to the first office action created. The second office action process can take up to one year. Once you have responded to the second office action the examiner must issue a patent or reject your application. If your patent is rejected you can appeal the PTO's denial. Appeals can take up to two more years to complete.

4. Issuance
Once an examiner is satisfied with your application they will make an allowance and the applicant will be required to pay an issuance fee. Once this fee is paid the applicant owns exclusive rights to the invention not to exceed 20 years from the date of the original application. Allowance to issuance can take up to one year.

How Much Will a Patent Cost to Get?

At the bare minimum going through entire patent process, including attorney's fees, can take an estimated $1000-$4000 for a simple mechanical or electrical invention, or an estimated $10,000 to $20,000 for a very complex computer or high-tech related product. These numbers do not reflect the additional cost incurred in the appeals process.

How Long Does a Patent Last?

Any patent that is filed on or after June 8, 1995 have a term that begins on the date that the patent was issued and ends on that date that is twenty years from the time the patent application was filed in the US. The twenty year term is the general rule Maintenance fee payments for the patent must be filed during the life of the patent to keep the patent alive.  Design patents have a term of 14 years from the time

Should I Consult a Lawyer about my Patent Issues?

Filing for a patent is an extremely detailed and complex process. Although most inventors are technically skilled, they are not familiar with the way which patent claims must be written. An experienced patent attorney is familiar with the rigors of the PTO and can help you get a valid patent on your profitable idea.

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Last Modified: 03-18-2015 10:37 PM PDT

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