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How to Get a Patent

How do you get a patent for your invention? First things first: Go to the source for the best information. Here is a link to the U.S. Patent Office site: http://www.uspto.gov . Believe it or not, they have a very useful and usable site. Near the bottom of the first page you'll see a link to "Inventor Resources." There you'll find all the details on what can be patented, how to do it, how many years a patent is good for, and the current fees.

Get a Patent Quickly

Provisional Patent Applications, made available by a recent act of congress, give you the fastest and cheapest way to protect your new product or invention. Filing this lets you claim "patent pending" status for your invention for 12 months. The fees may change, but it is around $100 as I write this (February 2006). You have to proceed with the formal patent application within that 12 months if you want to continue your protection.

The advantage here is that it gives you a year to see if you have a marketable product. For a lot less money than patenting your invention, you can protect it, so you can show it to manufacturers and attempt to get a licensing deal. If you can't get any interest within a year, you are free to drop the idea without having spent thousands of dollars unnecessarily.

What can be patented – utility patents are provided for a new, non-obvious and useful:

Process
Machine
Article of manufacture
Composition of matter
Improvement of any of the above
Note: In addition to utility patents, encompassing one of the categories above, patent protection is available for (1) ornamental design of an article of manufacture or (2) asexually reproduced plant varieties by design and plant patents.

What cannot be patented:

Laws of nature
Physical phenomena
Abstract ideas
Literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works (these can be Copyright protected). Go to the Copyright Office.
Inventions which are:
Not useful (such as perpetual motion machines); or
Offensive to public morality

Invention must also be:

Novel
Non-obvious
Adequately described or enabled (for one of ordinary skill in the art to make and use the invention)
Claimed by the inventor in clear and definite terms

More Information

Use the link above to the Patent Office and look over all the resources there. For trademark information, you can also go to the Patent Office site and use the link on the home page. They have made online trademark research fairly easy now.


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