The Patent Process in a Nutshell
The following steps are taken to obtain a U.S. patent:
- The invention is defined and described to a patent professional. This may be by demonstrating a prototype, by written material and hand sketches, and even by simple verbal description for simpler inventions.
- A preliminary patentability search is conducted to determine if the invention is new and if products made under the invention would be infringing on existing patents belonging to others.
- A draft or proposed patent application is prepared and presented to the inventor(s).
- Changes are made to the draft in accordance with inventor's requests and the inventor(s) signs a declaration stating that he/she/they believe they are the first to have invented the invention and that the draft fully describes the invention and appropriately claims its novel features.
- The draft is filed with the U.S. Patent Office (PTO) with a filing fee and a description of the prior patents that were found in the initial patent search, as a patent application and the filing date establishes an internationally recognized priority date
- The PTO issues a filing receipt within about four weeks from the filing date and the application is assigned to a PTO Art Unit and an examiner to await examination.
- Generally, within 12-18 months, the application is examined and the PTO examiner provides either a notice of allowance, or a rejection letter. About 70 percent of all applications are initially rejected, usually because the examiner finds prior patents that he/she considers relevant to the case but which were not considered in the initial application.
- If allowance is not given, a rebuttal or amendment to the application may be filed to place the application in condition for allowance. About 90-95 percent of initially rejected applications can be amended for allowance.
- When the application is allowed, an issue fee is paid and the patent is issued. Notice of issuance is printed in the Official Gazette of the PTO, which serves to give worldwide legal notice of ownership.
If foreign patents are filed within one year (but not later) of the filing date of the first U.S. application one may assert the U.S. priority date on the foreign patents. This means that the inventor has one year to show the invention to the public, offer it for sale and establish a licensing agreement with a manufacturer, without losing foreign filing rights.
- File in each foreign country of choice
- File a regional application designating which countries are included. Regional applications may be filed in each of: Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Central Africa and Southern Africa.
- File a Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) application, which effectively pushes the one-year deadline out to 30 months. The PCT may also be a first application designating the U.S. as well as most foreign countries and regions.
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