How To Protect My Invention

After you have invented a new product or technique, you should ask yourself, “How do I protect my invention?”  Once you have created something new, you will need to protect it, as others will want to profit from or steal your idea. What is the most effective way to protect your invention? File for a patent, which provides protection against the theft of your idea for the next 20 years. Interested in filing for a patent? Here are some tips to guide you through the process.

Filing a Patent in the U. S.

In the United States, you can file a patent if you are the first individual who has invented something. If you have invented something at the same time as someone else, you can file a patent even if another person has filed a patent for it. As long as you can prove through documentation, testimony, or official statement that you were inventing the product at a particular time, you can use this to identify you as the original inventor. This differs from other countries, where the first person to file the patent is approved without consideration for the person who invented it first.

Is Your Invention Unique?

As you decide whether to answer “how to protect my invention” with a patent, you must first ask yourself if the invention is unique. In order to receive a patent, your invention cannot incorporate any features that are already patented. For instance, if you wanted to patent a sandwich, you would need to make sure that the process of making the sandwich and its ingredients are not already patented. How do you do this? Sift through the database of already-issued patents that is provided by the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Look for similar and related inventions that could affect the uniqueness of your invention. If you find inventions that have any connection to your own invention, you will need professional guidance from a patent attorney. The attorney will provide you with counsel if you choose to proceed with your patent.

Additionally, your invention cannot be overly obvious. For example, if your invention is something that any other person in your  field of expertise would be able to invent, you are unlikely to receive a patent. Refer again to the sandwich invention. If you work at a sandwich shop, and you have come up with a new way to stack the ingredients on the sandwich so to optimize flavor and mouth-feel, you most likely cannot patent this. While it may be unique, most likely the other sandwich artists have developed similar stacking techniques and someone has probably utilized the one you have invented. Your idea must prove to be genius and revolutionary in order to be considered for a patent. You must prove that there is no other way that someone working in your field would be able to create your invention. You have to prove that your personal skills, knowledge, and experience evolved into the ideas for your invention.

Is the Invention Useful?

Some things simply cannot be patented. For example, any scientific theories you have are not patentable. Additionally, abstract ideas or notions you might want to protect by a patent are not permitted. In order to file for a patent, ask, “As I attempt to protect my invention, first, is it serving a particular function?” Your invention has to be tangible, meaning you have to be able to physically touch it at some point. For some processes that are a part of some greater product or service, such as a waterproofing feature for a cell phone, you might be unable to touch it.   However, if you can draw a diagram or construct a prototype for the invention, you can most likely patent it.

Once you have determined that you can “protect my invention,” you are ready for the patent process. Here are some of the steps you will need to take to file a patent in the U. S.

1. Create a formal document that details your invention. Include a thorough description of your invention, as well as any images, graphs, charts, or supportive information, that would permit someone to create your invention. You may be required to construct a prototype, depending on the type of invention. Also, you will need to state the uniqueness and usefulness of your invention, as discussed earlier in this article.

2. Visit the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office website to file the patent (it is highly recommended that you consult a patent attorney for this step). You will submit your patent application online. Along with the application, a fee is required, the fee amount depends on the type of invention you are patenting.

3. Respond promptly to any questions or requests for additional documentation from the USPTO. Request the assistance of a patent attorney if you are unsure of how to proceed with this step. Otherwise, you may find yourself caught in a legal web that can take months, even years, to get out of.

Once you have received your patent, you will have answered the question of “how do I protect my invention.”  However, now you must  consider what to do with it next!