Most entrepreneurs know it’s important to protect intellectual property. However, it’s difficult to know where to begin. That’s why we’ve put together this convenient cheat sheet. Whether you’ve never considered intellectual property before or you want to increase the sophistication of the knowledge you already possess, this guide offers valuable guidance with the patent process.
Cheat Number 1: Patent Searches
You’ve invented a great product or process, but how do you know if someone else has already patented the invention before? Visit the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s website at http://patft.uspto.gov/. The “Quick Search” function is particularly useful to novice searchers. This function allows the user to input two search terms, and then select whether to search all fields for those terms or to look for those terms in a particular field. The “Title” field is probably of the most use when looking for inventions that are similar to yours. This website allows you to search issued patents and pending patent applications. Keep in mind that only published applications are included in the results. Accordingly, there may be additional, unpublished, applications that may be relevant to your search.
Cheat Number 2: Filing a Patent Application Online
The USPTO has a relatively user-friendly interface for filing patent applications online. You’ll find the portal at http://www.uspto.gov/patents-application-process/file-online. From there, you select the EFS-Web link to access the interface. A great deal of work must be done before you can file your application. For instance, you must decide which type of patent is appropriate for your invention. Design patents are appropriate if you have created an ornamental design while plant patents are the right choice for a new plant variety. All other inventions are considered appropriate for utility patents.
You’ll also have to ensure that you have all of the required parts of the patent application. In order to be accorded an application serial number and filing date, your application must contain a written description of the invention, which is called the specification. Depending upon the type of application you’re filing, you may also have to include at least one claim that specifically describes the invention that you hope to protect. An oath or declaration by the inventors is required and government-mandated fees must be paid.
Cheat Number 3: The Inventors Assistance Center
Recognizing that filing a patent application is not the most self-evident process, the USPTO has created the Inventors Assistance Center at http://www.uspto.gov/learning-and-resources/support-centers/inventors-assistance-center-iac. The Center helps independent inventors find the answers to general questions regarding patent examination policy, formatting issues, locating and filling out forms and paying the right fees. However, the IAC cannot provide legal advice or offer opinions regarding the patentability of inventions.
While the USPTO has made it possible for independent inventors to file patent applications, there is a great deal to be said for working with a qualified Texas patent attorney. By allowing an attorney to prepare and file your application, you are much less likely to encounter formal and technical roadblocks that will make it difficult for you to obtain a patent. Moreover, experienced patent attorneys can find creative ways to distinguish your inventions from the disclosures of existing patents and applications.
Contact Texas patent attorney Jeff Williams to learn more about how to patent your invention. He’s helped numerous independent inventors and companies obtain the intellectual property protection they need.