At this point you may have decided that your idea is probably patentable, and you would like to move forward with obtaining a patent. So, what’s next? A patent application. Okay, great! Pretty straightforward… Well, not really. Let’s explore what actually goes into the application process.
Now, before I go on, I want to caution you. Hiring a patent attorney may seem expensive, overwhelming, or daunting; however, we have years of training and even have to sit for a special bar examination before the United States Patent and Trademark Office to demonstrate our understanding and application of the various, nuanced patent laws. A recent article, published in April, demonstrates the low success rate of someone filing an application on their own behalf, versus hiring a patent attorney (read that article here).
Not intimidated yet? Ok, the first thing that goes into a patent application is a simple search. Typically, the first thing a patent attorney will do is a simple google search to see if your invention or idea is already out there. It is highly unusual to not find something at least related to your idea or invention. Next, what is called a prior art search will be performed. This involves searching for specialty keywords and classifications which can be found through the USPTO, to lead the practitioner to patents and any other publications that may be related to your idea or invention. Patents can be searched directly through the USPTO, as well as various other patent related sites. Additionally, there are companies that specialize in prior art searches. Beware, the cheaper the cost these companies are, the less quality results you should expect to receive. Not to say that paying $5,000 is going to find you more or better information than a $2,000 search would return. But, if you plan to hire a company, you should budget for at least $1,000 and expect to pay closer to $1,500 or $2,000 for a good quality search.
After your searches have been completed, the next step is acquiring drawings. The USPTO requires drawings as part of the patent application, and these drawings have to meet certain specifications outlined in their manual. Again, you will find several companies that specialize in only patent drawings. As far as budgeting for patent drawings, well that depends. It depends on how involved the drawings need to be, how many drawings you need, and what kind of information you’re already able to provide the company with. Most companies will give you an estimate of the cost before they perform the work. It is also advisable to find a company that will work with you over the phone and not charge you for reworking the drawings. This way you can more accurately explain what you need shown in your drawings, as well as if something isn’t quite precise when you receive the drawings back, they will fix it for you as a part of your overall payment. Make sure, if you hire a company, that you have them number your drawings according to USPTO specifications. This is important in the application process because you will be required to reference your drawings and various elements of your invention by number in the actual specification portion of the application.
Only once these steps have been completed are you then ready to proceed with putting together your actual application. In our next installment, I will discuss that actual pieces of a patent application and how everything I’ve talked about today fits in to what you will need to file in the USPTO. Feeling overwhelmed or have questions about anything in today’s post? Contact me! Until next time, be kind and promote progress, don’t stifle it!