Inventors want to protect their inventions from unauthorized use and distribution. Patents are granted to inventors to prevent others from “making, using, offering for sale, or selling” their inventions in the United States.

Thus, a patent is given to an inventor to protect their invention.

Inventions in any field of technology can be patented for twenty years. As part of international agreements with the World Trade Organization (WTO), member nations must recognize and enforce legal patents.

What Is a Utility Patent?

Utility patents are the most common type of patents. When inventions or discoveries require patent protection, utility patents are typically sought.

A utility patent is one of the world’s most valuable assets. They have numerous formal requirements and are very expensive compared to other forms of intellectual property protection. Utility patents can be intimidating for new inventors. Take it one step at a time, however, and you, too, can receive an issued patent.

Usually, when people discuss patents, they are talking about utility patents. What is a utility patent? A good utility patent definition is “any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof,” which is how the U.S. Code defines an invention for which a patent may be obtained.

Patent applications for utility inventions protect new machines, systems, and other useful inventions. There is no doubt that utility patents are among the most valuable forms of intellectual property, but they are not free. Utility patents can be extremely expensive. Simple inventions can cost a few thousand dollars, whereas complex technologies can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Can I Get a Patent on My Invention?

Suppose your invention is a machine, an article of manufacture, or a composition of matter. In that case, you can probably claim it in a patent application, provided it meets the substantive standards of patentability.

  • Machine: A machine is something that performs some function and produces a desired result.
  • Article of manufacture: An article of manufacture is something that is made of raw or prepared materials that are given new forms or properties. A chair, for example, is an article of manufacture because it is made out of wood that has been shaped and put together to form something new.
  • Composition of matter: A composition of matter is a composition of two or more substances to create something new.

When describing your invention, break it down into essential and non-essential components. Your new mechanism for driving a 10-speed bicycle may include most of the parts of a standard bicycle: gears, chains, and pedals. Despite this, it also contains a chainsaw-inspired tensioner.

Find out if anyone has ever patented or published a similar design. Most of the elements of a standard bicycle are readily available. Finding a bicycle that also uses your chainsaw-inspired tensioner will be the trick.

Before you file your patent, you should conduct a patent search. If you find a patent that uses the same tensioner, you will have a hard time getting a patent. Before you file a utility patent application, you should find out how much it will cost.

How Can I Get a Patent for My Invention?

A patent is a teaching document. Inventors are granted rights to their inventions by the government so that they can tell the public how to use them. Utility patent applications must meet several formal requirements. Each section has its own formatting rules.

Drawings or diagrams are needed to explain how your invention works. Your invention will be easier to use if these requirements are met.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office receives patent applications and makes patent determinations. An inventor must submit an application to the Patent and Trademark Office and attach specific drawings and a plan of the proposed invention. It is also necessary for the inventor to include a fee. The invention plan must follow a very rigid and specific format. The Patent and Trademark Office typically question the applicant after reviewing the application.

As of September 2011, exclusive rights will be granted to the inventor who filed the patent first. Patent protection was previously granted to those who first invented the technology or product.

Can I Patent My Idea If It Doesn’t Produce a New Product?

An inventor may be able to get a process patent if they discover or invent a new method for doing something. Utility patents prevent others from using your method but not from using a different method to create the same product.

Patents are often granted for the following processes:

  • A new method of making something, for example, a method of making cars
  • A new method of using something, for example, using a certain chemical compound as a pesticide
  • A new method of doing something, for example, a new method of putting in golf

If you discover a new way to do something that also produces a new product, you can seek a patent for both. A patent for both your process and product allows you to prevent others from using your process for any purpose or manufacturing your product.

I Thought of a Way to Improve an Existing Product or Process. Can I Patent it?

You may be able to obtain a patent for an improvement you make to an existing product or process. Due to the lack of a patent for the original product or process, you cannot make, use, or sell the improved product or process. Because you hold the patent on the improvement, the patent owner of the original product or process cannot make, use, or sell the improved version.

To market the improved product, you will have to enter into a licensing agreement with the patent owner of the original product or process.

Can I Transfer My Patent To A Family Member or Business Partner?

Yes. The Federal Constitution grants exclusive rights to inventors, but the current federal code allows patents to be sold, licensed, mortgaged, transferred, or abandoned like any other property.

Patent Infringement

When another party uses your invention or an invention with elements similar to yours, they may be liable for patent infringement. In order to demonstrate patent infringement, one must compare the patent’s claims and elements with the elements of the device or invention that is suspect. If they match, there is an infringement. An inventor can enforce the patent in a federal court.

Utility Patents Compared to Other Patents

An invention protected by a utility patent may also be protected by a design patent, requiring only drawings and limited text about the design. Patents for design last 14 to 15 years from the filing date and can be obtained independently.

In order to qualify for both a utility patent and a design patent, the invention must be useful and not only decorative.

A plant patent is a type of patent that can be acquired by someone who discovers or creates a new variety of plants. No maintenance fees are required, and it lasts for 20 years.

There are significantly fewer plant patents than utility or design patents.

Should I Consult a Patent Attorney?

It is a very complex and intricate process to apply for a patent. If you are considering filing for a utility patent, you should contact a patent lawyer specializing in patents. A patent attorney will help you determine whether your invention is patentable and help you file your application.