Patent Basics

Chances are you’ve heard a friend or colleague say, “I’m one good idea away from being a millionaire!” many times.  You may have even said it yourself. If you have a great idea that you think could be a viable product and could ultimately be profitable, obtaining a patent is the only way to secure your exclusive rights. Not sure where to start? These are the crucial steps you need to take when filing a patent.

Keep Detailed Information

When compiling data to file for your invention’s patent, you will need to explain and illustrate every detail of the invention, including any modifications as well as the original design. In some cases, you also will need to build and test a prototype to show the invention’s viability. During every phase of research and design, you want to keep detailed notes, including dates and signatures, both from you and any witnesses, to confirm it is in fact your invention.

Make Sure Your Invention Qualifies for Protection

Patents are granted only to inventions that follow these parameters:

  1. The invention is useful.
  2. The invention is novel, meaning it’s never been done before.
  3. The invention is non-obvious, and
  4. The invention must not be public knowledge prior to your patent application.

If any one of these statements don’t apply to your invention, then your product is probably not eligible for a patent.

It’s worth mentioning that ideas, no matter how revolutionary, are not protected by patents according to the decision of O’Reilly v. Morse, 56 U.S. 15 (1853).  The idea must actually be put into use.

Consider the Commercial Potential of Your Invention

Applying for a patent is a business decision that should not be taken lightly. Even if you choose not to work with a patent attorney, and move directly to hiring designers to create professional renderings and prototypes, the application might cost hundreds or even thousands to obtain a patent from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Conducting a Patent Search

Blindly applying for a patent is a recipe for disaster. To ensure that your invention is novel, you must research previous developments in your field. This process involves searching for related inventions in United States or International Patent Databases, as well as scientific and/or technical journals. You can start your investigations online, but you may also want to visit a Patent and Trademark Depository Library. There you can search earlier patents and get help from a librarian. This step is both time consuming and confusing, and doing this alone can be a daunting task.

Prepare Paperwork for the USPTO

When applying for a patent, you can file for the full standard patent or a provisional patent application (PPA). A PPA is not an application for the patent, but it allows you to claim the coveted “patent pending” status for your invention. You must then file for a Regular Patent Application (RPA) within a year of filing for a PPA. Fees incurred depends on the size of your organization, and can range from less than $100 to over $200.

Can you do it on your own?

Yes, you can apply for a patent on your own, but it is both time consuming and full of complicated steps, legal filings, and other considerations that can be challenging. The optimal way to set yourself up for success is to hire an attorney who is an expert in patent law, who knows how get your invention approved without incurring unnecessary costs and delays.  

At Company Counsel, we will help you take your invention to market while protecting your rights to it. Call us at 484-325-5660 to set up a consultation. Learn more about us at

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