Have you ever had a great idea and wondered what it would take to patent it? Although most inventors recognize that patents are available to protect their inventions, there remain a lot of unanswered questions in the area of patent law. This article is meant to provide general answers to some of those basic questions.
What is a Patent?
A patent is a form of intellectual property protection given by the federal government for innovative ideas and inventions. Patent protection usually lasts 20 years and is available to anyone who “invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof.” Once you get a patent on something, no one else can use it without your authorization, which can be a very valuable form of protection.
What Can I Patent?
There are five basic requirements that every patent must satisfy. Although volumes could be written about each, briefly stated the requirements are:
- An Adequate Written Disclosure
- Patentable Subject Matter
How Do I Get a Patent?
Because of the broad protection that patent rights afford an inventor, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has a lengthy procedure for reviewing patent applications. Although anyone can file his or her own patent application, the patent office recommends using a patent attorney. This is because the process for getting a patent requires compliance with a very strict format and can include many back-and-forth exchanges between the applicant and the office. Having a patent attorney who can help you format your application correctly and respond to the office’s inquiries can both significantly increase your chances of getting a patent and decrease the cost of getting a patent.
Although getting a patent can be a long and complicated process, if you have an idea that you truly believe is innovative and valuable, this should not stop you from seeking patent protection. If you have a great idea, consult an intellectual property attorney and find out how you can protect it.