How to File a US Patent: Step By Step Guide (2021)

File a US Patent

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A brainchild is a creation of the mind. Depending on what your brainchild ???? is, you will need to secure exclusive intellectual property rights to it as the inventor. Otherwise, anyone can steal your idea and make it his own.

The four different intellectual property rights are patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets. For this article, we will be focusing on just the first. What is a patent, why is it important, and how do you file for one?

Read on to learn about how to protect your brainchildren!

What is a Patent?

A patent is your exclusive right to any invention that can improve people’s way of living. These inventions can be a product, a process, a technological innovation, or even an improved version of an existing invention. 

To help give you a better idea of what they are, here are some examples of patents that were filed and submitted between January and March of 2021:

  • January 5, 2021 – Aerodynamic devices for enhancing lift and reducing drag
  • February 16, 2021 – Embedding electronic structure in controllable quantum systems
  • March 30, 2021 – Methods of detecting prenatal or pregnancy-related diseases or conditions

Importance of Patents

Patents are important because they safeguard ????️ your rights to your creations. Let’s say you’re able to invent something that has an immediate application and a ready market. It has the potential to attract attention from big investors and technology takers. That’s great news!

The problem is your idea’s potential to create fame and wealth might attract some bad people as well, in the form of opportunists who may want to steal it for their own gain. You can’t control what other people do, but you can protect yourself against them. So, taking that extra step of filing a patent for security purposes can go a long way.

How to File for a US Patent?

Whether you’re researching for your own benefit, or you’re trying to help a friend, know that patents can be tricky and difficult to do. This is a technical process with lots of legal basis, so don’t be afraid to reach out to someone more knowledgeable on the subject. Doing so might help prevent unwanted trouble in the long run.

Using a Kanban app or tool can be incredibly helpful for keeping track of processes. Here is a patent application guide that we’ll be discussing in detail in the next section. 

File a US Patent - 1

Step 1: Search the US Patent and Trademark Office

Do your research first at the United States Patent and Trademark Office website and ask yourself ???? the following questions:

  • Is my invention unique and useful?
  • Does it qualify for a patent? 
  • Has it already been patented?
  • Can I also trademark my invention after patenting it?

You can begin your search at the USPTO in your region, and expand to the whole country once you get an idea of the patents similar to what you have in mind.

Step 2: Choose the Right Type of Patent

Applying for a patent will all be for naught if you’re applying for the wrong type. There are three types of patents, and all of them offer different coverages and protection, and are subject to their own fees. We made this table to make it easier for you to compare each kind: 

Type of PatentCoverageProtectionTime FrameAdditional Fees
Utility PatentNew anduseful processes, machines, manufactures, composition ofmatter, or a new and useful improvementTo exclude others from making, using, or selling the invention Up to twenty years from the date of patent application filing Subject to the payment of maintenance fees
Design PatentNew, original, andornamental design embodied in or applied to an article of manufactureTo exclude others from making, using, or selling the designUp to fifteen years from the date of grantNot subject to the payment of maintenance fees
Plant PatentNew and distinct, inventedor discovered, asexually reproduced plant includingcultivated sports, mutants, hybrids, and newly found          seedlings, other than a tuber propagated plant, or a plant found in an uncultivated stateTo exclude others from making, using, or selling the plantUp to twenty years from the date of patent application filingNot subject to the payment of maintenance fees

Contents lifted from the USPTO’s Types of Patents.

Step 3: Document Your Process

Documentation can serve as evidence of your ideation process. A notebook containing everything you need to know about your invention can be very valuable, especially if you have to compete with another inventor for the same patent.

Thus, you must support your invention with proper documentation. This includes everything from the moment you had the idea, up to the moment it finally came to life. Yes, dates as well. Your patent application could very well boil ♨️ down to who started working on the idea first.

Keep your laboratory notebooks with you while you work on your idea. Take pictures of end results and paste them in your notebook. If you’re unsure if it will be helpful to keep at the moment, send a copy of the photo to yourself just to keep track of the date and timestamp. In the battle of intellectual property, time is essential. 

Of course, if you’re tech savvy, you can also make use of platforms such as Notion or Asana to help you organize. 

Step 4: Keep Your Ideas Confidential

If your idea hasn’t been fully fleshed out yet, or is still in the process of a patent acquisition, it will be a mortal sin to talk about it. We understand that when you’ve thought of something new and exciting, it can be a struggle keeping it a secret. But in this case, being discreet is better than being rash, at least until you’ve had a chance to start working on your idea. 


Remember that ideas can be stolen, and without the proper documentation or a patent, it’ll be difficult to fight back. Trust the process. The wait will be worth it.

Step 5: Ensure that Your Invention Qualifies for Patent

Sure, you might have a new and useful idea ???? that no one else has thought of before. But, does it qualify as an invention that can be patented? 

Your invention must:

  • Be novel
  • Be inventive
  • Have a potential for wide industrial applications

A patented idea should be on a greater level than the occasional Eureka thoughts we have on a daily basis. 

Step 6: File a Provisional Patent Application

If you’re sure that your invention fits the criteria in the previous step, then you can consider applying for a provisional patent. This acts as your intellectual property’s first layer of protection before the whole world is allowed to take a glimpse of it. 

When you apply for this, you are given 12 months to fine-tune your idea. You can pitch them to potential investors or technology takers, or be bolder and test out its industrial-scale feasibility. Basically, this step is like a trial run before you fully commit to the formal filing of your patent.

Step 7: Collect Information For Your Application

As the inventor, you should be able to present and explain your creation in detail. Thus, it is vital to collect any and all relevant information or data. Then, compile them neatly in a written ???? format, also known as the Patent Document or Patent Application Form. 

Like scientific papers and case studies, patent documents should have the following parts:

  • Abstract
  • Background of the invention
  • Scope of the invention
  • A detailed description of the invention
  • Summary
  • Outcomes
  • Conclusion 

While you know the nitty-gritty details of your creation, we highly recommend that you seek help from an appropriate lawyer for the process of acquiring a patent. Since this is a legal document, you have to make sure that you are using the correct legal terms to prevent any untoward issues from cropping up in the future.

Step 8: Register as eFiler

An eFiler is a patent applicant who submits the application online through the USPTO’s website. When you register as an eFiler, you can enjoy the perks of not having to wait in line when you submit in-person. Or becoming anxious about the late receipt of your application by fax or mail. 

By visiting the USPTO’s website, you also get to explore and read some of the free, readily available resources about intellectual property rights. Who knows? After a bit more reading, you might want to secure a trademark for your new brainchild, on top of the patent you’re thinking of filing! 

Step 9: Complete and Review Your Application

Strive to submit a bullet-proof patent application. In this case, done is not better than perfect. Why, you ask?

Well, because the application process is lengthy and can take up to three years. It would be a shame ???? to have your submission rejected just because of minor revisions that you could have addressed immediately. 

All that is to say, fill in all the required information and be as thorough as you can in reviewing your requirements before finally filing your patent. You can ask your patent lawyer to review your documents for you beforehand. Or you can ask someone who knows about this application. Just make sure it’s someone you can trust.

Step 10: File Your Patent Application

Finally, after a long and arduous process, you can now file your patent application. You can choose to do this by yourself, on behalf of your co-inventors, or you can hire a registered agent to do it for you. While the latter option can seem more convenient, we nonetheless recommend that you participate in the filing process.

This can help speed things up because once you receive an update from the patent examiner assigned to your case, you’ll be able to answer them directly instead of waiting for updates coming from your agent. 

You Might Ask

How much does it cost to get a US patent?

The cost of a US patent is dependent on how you choose to apply for it. For first-time applicants who need extra guidance from patent lawyers, an application can cost between $5,000 to over $10,000 ????. This is inclusive of the patent fee and the lawyer’s fee. But for more experienced applicants, it can cost as low as $900 because they can do it themselves.  


Can I file a patent on my own?

Yes, you can file a patent on your own, no matter if you’re a solo inventor or if you belong to a group. You can also choose to hire a registered agent to file your patent for you or your team. Just make sure that you have completed all the requirements and have gone through a series of application reviews so you can spot every missing or incorrect detail and address them accordingly. 


How hard is it to get a US patent?

Getting a US patent can be as hard as convincing investors to put money into your minimum viable product. But with step by step guides like in this article, and the resources that can be provided by the USPTO themselves, it does become more bearable and feel less daunting. 


How can I get a patent with no money?

You’ll only need money to pay for the patent application filing fees. Everything else from drafting to applying for it yourself, you can do for free.


How long is a patent good for?

The longest period of protection coverage for patents is 20 years. This usually applies to utility patents since the majority of the applications are under this category. A design patent only has a 15 year protection coverage. Therefore, you need to renew your patent registration or pay periodic fees to keep your exclusive rights to your intellectual property. 


What are the 3 types of patents?

The three types of patents are utility, design, and plant. The classification of your new idea will be based on the category to which it belongs..


Conclusion

Though there are a bunch of detailed resources out there telling you how to file for a US patent, they don’t discount the fact that the actual patent application can take up to three years to get approved. While waiting, secure a provisional patent as a form of defense against those who might want to steal your idea from you. Think of it as an insurance policy. It’s better to have one than none. 

Patenting can be costly, but the benefits you reap once investors start to take interest can be rewarding. Even while your patent is still pending, you can already team up with them for future projects that can hopefully give you a return of investment from your invention.

The US patent application process can be intimidating. Hopefully, this step by step guide helps tear down ???? that wall so you can finally start working on it. Protect your brainchild, secure its birth certificate! 

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