Patent It Yourself: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Filing at the U.S. Patent Office

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Patents may be granted for inventions in any field of technology, from an everyday kitchen utensil to a nanotechnology chip. An invention can be a product — such as a chemical compound, or a process, for example — or a process for producing a specific chemical compound. Many products in fact contain a number of inventions. For example, a laptop computer can involve hundreds of inventions, working together.

Patent protection is granted for a limited period, generally 20 years from the filing date of the application. Patents are territorial rights. In general, the exclusive rights are only applicable in the country or region in which a patent has been filed and granted, in accordance with the law of that country or region. Patent rights are usually enforced in a court on the initiative of the right owner. In most systems a court of law has the authority to stop patent infringement. However the main responsibility for monitoring, identifying, and taking action against infringers of a patent lies with the patent owner.

This takes place according to agreed terms and conditions for example, defining the amount and type of payment to be made by the licensee to the licensor , for a defined purpose, in a defined territory, and for an agreed period of time. A patent owner may grant a license to a third party for many reasons. Alternatively, a patent owner may have manufacturing facilities, but they may not be large enough to cover market demand.

Entering into a licensing agreement can help to build a mutually-beneficial business relationship.

Unlike selling or transferring a patent to another party, the licensor continue to have property rights over the patented invention. Patented inventions have, in fact, pervaded every aspect of human life, from electric lighting patents held by Edison and Swan and plastic patents held by Baekeland , to ballpoint pens patents held by Biro , and microprocessors patents held by Intel, for example. Patents provide incentives to and protection for individuals by offering them recognition for their creativity and the possibility of material reward for their inventions.

Once knowledge is publicly available, by its nature, it can be used simultaneously by an unlimited number of persons. While this is, without doubt, perfectly acceptable for public information, it causes a dilemma for the commercialization of technical knowledge. As a consequence, inventors would naturally be discouraged to bring new inventions to the market, and tend to keep their commercially valuable inventions secret.

A patent system intends to correct such under-provision of innovative activities by providing innovators with limited exclusive rights, thereby giving the innovators the possibility to receive appropriate returns on their innovative activities. These incentives and the dissemination of knowledge about new inventions encourage further innovation, which assures that the quality of human life and the well-being of society is continuously enhanced.

There are numerous conditions that must be met in order to obtain a patent and it is not possible to compile an exhaustive, universally applicable list. However, some of the key conditions include the following:. A patent is granted by a national patent office or by a regional office that carries out the task for a number of countries.

Currently, the following regional patent offices are in operation:.

Patent It Yourself | Ingram Academic

Under such regional systems, an applicant requests protection for an invention in one or more member states of the regional organization in question. The regional office accepts these patent applications, which have the same effect as national applications, or grants patents, if all the criteria for the grant of such a regional patent are met. In general, applicants can prepare their patent applications and file them without assistance from a patent attorney. Furthermore, the legislation of many countries requires that an applicant, whose ordinary residence or principal place of business is outside the country, be represented by an attorney or agent qualified in the country which usually means an agent or attorney who resides and practices in that country.

Information on the qualified attorneys and agents can be obtained directly from national and regional IP offices. The costs vary considerably from country to country and even within a country. As the official fees vary widely from country to country, please contact the relevant national or regional patent office which will be able to give you details on the fee structure. Consult our list of national and regional intellectual property offices. Some countries offer discounts to small- and medium-sized enterprises and applicants filing the application online.

In addition, some countries allow expedited examination upon payment of additional fees. In addition to the national official filing fees, once a patent is granted by the patent office, you must pay maintenance or renewal fees, generally on an annual basis, to maintain the validity of the patent.

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In case you decide to patent your invention abroad, you should also consider the relevant official filing fees for each country in question, the translation costs, and the costs of using local patent agents, which is a requirement in many countries for foreign applicants. In general, an application for a patent must be filed, and the patent granted and enforced, in each country in which you seek patent protection for your invention, in accordance with the law of that country.

How to apply for a European patent

Therefore, one way of obtaining patents in a number of countries is to file a national patent application with each relevant national patent office. These have the same effect as applications filed, or patents granted, in the member states of that region. This means that, in certain regions, you can obtain a regional patent from a regional patent office , which is valid in some or all of its member states.

If you are seeking patent protection in a number of countries worldwide, a good option is to file an international application under the Patent Cooperation Treaty PCT , administered by WIPO. Any resident or national of a state party to the PCT contracting state can file a single international application which has the effect of a national patent application and certain regional patent applications in some or all PCT contracting states. In some cases, this can be a more straightforward choice than choosing to try to submit individual applications in each and every country in which you require protection.

Find out more about the PCT System. The first step in securing a patent is the filing of a patent application. Many patent offices provide a specific form to fill in. In some patent offices, you can file a patent application on line. In the patent application, in general, you must describe the title of the invention, as well as provide an indication of its technical field. You must also include the background to and a description of the invention, in clear language and enough detail that a person with an average understanding of the field could use or reproduce the invention.

Such descriptions are usually accompanied by visual materials such as drawings, plans, or diagrams to better describe the invention and an abstract, which contains a brief summary of the invention. In addition, depending on the applicable patent law, you may need to submit various kinds of statements, declarations or supporting documents to a patent office.

In view of the complexity it is recommended that you consult a patent attorney or a patent agent to prepare a patent application. The procedures vary significantly from one country to another, so it is impossible to provide an exhaustive step-by-step overview. However it is recommended that you consult either a practicing lawyer specializing in IP or the relevant IP office. Consult our directory of national and regional IP offices.

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The grant of a patent can be challenged either via a patent office or in a court of law. A court may invalidate or revoke a patent upon a successful challenge by a third party. In addition, many patent offices provide administrative procedures that allow third parties to oppose to the grant of a patent including so-called "opposition systems" , for example, on the basis that the claimed invention is not new or does not involve an inventive step. Procedures for challenging patents differ from country to country.

Find out more about opposition systems. In some countries, patent protection may be extended beyond 20 years or a Supplementary Protection Certificate SPC may be issued in very specific cases. The extension aims to compensate for the time expended on the administrative approval procedure before products can be put on the market.

The time taken for this procedure means that the patent owner may sometimes not be able to benefit from his right for a considerable period of time after the grant of the patent. Possibly, but laws and practices in this regard can differ from one country or region to another. In other countries, such requirements do not exist, meaning that in these countries software is generally patentable subject matter.

Your Step-by-Step Guide to Filing at the U.S. Patent Office

However this does not mean that all software will be able to be patent protected. In order to obtain a patent, a software invention must not fall under other non-patentable subject matter for example, abstract ideas or mathematical theories and has to fulfill the other substantive patentability criteria for example, novelty, inventive step [non-obviousness] and industrial applicability [usefulness].

It is therefore recommended that you consult a practicing lawyer specializing in intellectual property or the intellectual property offices of those countries in which you are interested in obtaining protection. Consult our directory of national and regional intellectual property offices to get in contact with a local IP professional, or browse the WIPO Lex database of intellectual property legislation from around the world. Find out more about using patents to protect software and business methods. Should a patent turn out not to be a viable option for your software-related invention, then using copyright as a means of protection may be an alternative.

In general, computer programs are protected under copyright as literary works. The protection starts with the creation or fixation of the work, such as software or a webpage. Moreover, in general, you are not required to register or deposit copies of a work in order to obtain copyright protection. However, according to a well-established principle, copyright protection extends only to expressions, not to ideas, procedures, methods of operation, or mathematical concepts as such.

Thus many companies protect the object code of computer programs by copyright, while the source code is kept as a trade secret. Find out more about copyright. Whether you can obtain patent protection for an app depends on which element of your app you wish to protect. If you want to protect a technical idea or feature relating to the app, patent protection is a potential option. Depending on the applicable national law, the software that runs your app may be able to be protected by patents if it has certain technical features.

You must be mindful however that your technical idea must meet all of the patentability requirements to obtain patent protection, and it may take years to get a patent. In addition, it is important to ask yourself which element s of your app should be protected from free use by competitors.

Content Types

The software that runs your app can be protected by copyright potentially also by patents , as described above. If you are interested in protecting logos or signs contained within your app however, you should consider protecting them using trademarks. Literary and artistic works included within your app, such as original databases, musical works, audiovisual works, works of fine art and photographs, are protected by copyright.

Graphical objects and layouts can be protected using industrial designs. WIPO Lex provides easy access to intellectual property legislation from a wide range of countries and regions as well as to treaties on intellectual property. Many national or regional patent offices also provide information concerning national or regional legislation on their websites.

Patents are granted by patent offices in exchange for a full disclosure of the invention. In general, the details of the invention are then published and made available to the public at large. It should be noted that publication can take place at various stages of the procedure. In some countries, the patent document is only published after the granting of a patent. In other countries, patent applications are generally published 18 months from the filing date or, where priority has been claimed, the priority date for more details, see the website of your national IP office.

It is important to file a patent application before publicly disclosing the details of an invention. Some countries, however, allow for a grace period — usually between 6 and 12 months — which provides a safeguard for applicants who disclosed their inventions before filing a patent application. Further, the novelty criteria may be interpreted differently depending on the applicable law. If disclosing your invention before filing a patent application is unavoidable — for example, to a potential investor or a business partner — then any disclosure should be accompanied by a confidentiality or non-disclosure agreement.

It should also be kept in mind that applying early for patent protection will generally be helpful when seeking financial support to commercialize an invention. May have page creases, creased spine, bent cover or markings inside. Packed with care, shipped promptly. Merchant Details: eCampus.

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