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Patent 101: How to Start the Process

When you’ve had an idea for a new invention, one important step to realizing it is protecting that idea through a patent. A patent is a legal document, issued by the government, that gives you the exclusive right or title to make, sell, or use an invention for a certain period of time. Having a patent will protect your idea from being stolen or used without proper credit.

In order to get a patent, an inventor is required to fill out a substantial application. It’s important to start this process early in order to adequately protects your ideas. In general, the first person who applies for a patent is the one who receives it. But keep in mind, any modifications made throughout the testing process are not included in a patent after it’s been filed. That’s why it’s important to apply for a patent not when the idea first comes to you, but when you have it fleshed out and have begun the testing process.

When filling out a patent application, many inventors choose to hire a patent lawyer who is skilled in their specific area of invention. The first step the patent lawyer will take is to do a patent search to ensure that there are no pre-existing patents for your exact idea. He or she will also search for similar or comparable patents. It’s smart to do this research early on in the inventing process to ensure you don’t waste your time and money developing an idea that is already patented.

When filling out the actual application the inventor or the lawyer needs to include a description of any similar inventions that are already patented, a description of the new invention, how the idea will, ideally, be used, claims (which are detailed descriptions of exactly what the invention can and cannot do), and any necessary drawings.

At this point the patent application is submitted, along with the submission fee. You are now able to start marketing your idea under the label “patent pending” until a patent examiner reviews your application. The examiner will either accept your application and issue your patent or reject your application based on the information provided. It is actually quite common for the first application to be rejected. However, you and your lawyer can make the necessary amendments to the application and resubmit until the patent is approved.