There are main steps in the patent process the patent search, and the patent application. Each of these steps has a distinct purpose and role in the patent process.
You may not have seen your invention sale in stores, or in use by the general public. Nonetheless, someone may have already patented your idea. And this happens more often than you might think. The purpose of the patent search is to make sure that your idea hasn’t already been invented.
A patent search allows you to see what patents are already out there, relating to your invention. These patents are commonly referred to as “prior art”. Since patent searches are relatively cheap, and patent applications are relatively expensive, it is to your advantage to perform a patent search before you file for a patent. Such a search can also give you a stronger patent, by helping you distinguish your invention from the patents that turn up in your search of the prior art. There are agencies, such as Invent Help that could help and you can find more information about InventHelp here.
The purpose of your patent application is to describe your invention. Once you have filed a patent application with the United States Patent Office you have a “Patent Pending”.
Your patent application will contain a series of “claims”, each of which is a single sentence that describes that which you feel are the patentable features of your invention.
For example, say you invented a voice activated telephone dialer. It allows you to say the name of the person you want to call, and your telephone will automatically dial that number.
One of your claims may look something like this:
A voice activated telephone comprising:
A voice receiver for receiving a voice command, a translator for translating the voice command to a numerical input, and a dialer for automatically dialing the numerical input.
Your application must provide the background, details and drawing to support the description of your invention given in the claims.
Once you have a “Patent Pending” it is assigned to an examiner at the Patent Office. The examiner will perform her own search of U.S. Patents based on the claims of your application. The examiner will then issue an “Office Action” indicating whether your patent was allowed or rejected.
If your patent was allowed, then your application may issue into a United States Patent. If your patent was rejected, you can amend your claims and resubmit them to the examiner.
For example, if the examiner has found a patent that shows your voice activated telephone, but does not show the specially designed computer chip that you used, you can amend your claim, above, to include this specially designed computer chip.
As you can see, if you have performed a patent search before applying for a patent, you will be able to prepare much better claims, and have a better chance of receiving a patent. Again, InventHelp patenting agency can help.
Once your patent has been allowed, you will have to pay an “issuance fee” to the United States Patent & Trademark Office. You will then be granted the right to prevent others from making using and selling your patent, for twenty years from the date that the patent was initially filed. Over the course of this period, you will periodically have to pay “maintenance fees” to maintain your patent rights.