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What is a Patent?

A patent is another method to protect intellectual property.

According to the USPTO website "A patent is an intellectual property right granted by the Government of the United States of America to an inventor “to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States” for a limited time in exchange for public disclosure of the invention when the patent is granted."

Should You Use The Patent Process?

Once you have an idea the first question you have to ask yourself is whether or not it should be patented.  Only certain things can be patented. 

Simply because you have an idea does not mean that it is patentable. 

According to the USPTO the following can be patent:
- Process
- Machine
- Article of Manufacture
- Composition of Matter
- Improvement of any of the above

According to the USPTO you cannot patent the following:
- Laws of nature
- Physical phenomenon
- Abstract Ideas
- Literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work
- Things that are not useful or offensive to public morality

You can find more details at the US Patent and Trademark Office website.  

Types of Patents

There are three types of patent:

- Plant:
asexually reproduced a distinct and new variety of plant

- Utility:

For new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof

- Design

For new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture

Learn more about the different types of patents at:  the different types of Patents

It is very important that you understand the use of the different types of patent.  It could mean the difference between having a viable patent or a useless one.

Getting Your Ideas Patented

How do you go about patenting an idea while ensuring that it is not stolen from you in the process.  There are organizations that operate under the guise of providing patent protection services in order to gain access to good ideas and patent it for themselves.  There are several ways you can approach this and avoid the pitfalls of bad patent services. 

You can utilize the patent service of those organizations listed by the US Patent and Trademark office as Registered Agents.  They will charge you a substantial fee for their service.  Be sure to use the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website to check their record before utilizing their service.


If you are confident in your abilities to grasp new knowledge quickly, you can do the research, prepare and file the patent yourself.  You only involve a patent attorney towards the end of the process if you receive an Office Action challenging your Claims.  You must be willing to invest some time and effort for this option.  However, it will ensure that no one will be in a position to steal your idea and patent it for themselves.


Another option is to file a Provisional patent application, then hire a Patent Attorney to submit the full application.

You can also utilize the services of companies that help people get their ideas patented.  Some of these organizations are referred to as "invention submission companies".  These are some of those companies.

The United Inventors Association of America (UIA)
If you're new to the invention process this is a place to start.  The UIA provides a listing of local inventor clubs that you can become members of.  These clubs consists of people like you who meet once a month to share ideas and experiences about the invention and patenting process.  This is a great resource to tap into.

InventHelp assist you in trying to submit your inventions or new products ideas to industry and refer you to license patent attorneys who can help your will patenting your idea.  Based in Pittsburgh, PA.

Invents Company





How to Search

Use these two options to do a search of the Patent & Trademark database.


Text Search

Patent-Full Text Database Search


Normal:  The normal timeframe for a patent application to be approved is two years.

Accelerated:  The accelerated period for a patent approval is one year.  Read more about the ACCELERATION process.

The average time to get a patent approved is two years.


The filing a non-provisional application with the Patent and Trademark Office will cost a minimum of $515.00.  The filing fee for a Provisional application is $105.


There are additional issue and maintenance fees associated with patents.  Plant and Design patents require no maintenance fee.


 See specific FILING FEES:

Online system

The online system allows you to file as a Registered or Unregistered filer.  Being a Registered filer gives you access to more information.  Visit the links below and see more details.


EFS Web Registration

EFS Registered eFilers

EFS Unregistered eFilers


Provisional Patent

A PROVISIONAL Patent gives you the opportunity to do an initial filing with minimal information for 12 months before you have to file the full patent application.  A Provisional Patent only require a written description and any drawings that describes the invention.  The average filing fee is $105.  You must file a full patent within 12 months.

Read more about PROVISIONAL Patent requirements.

Office Action

Office Action is when the examiner sees something in your application that needs to be addressed and sends you a notification of such action.  For example, if he/she cannot approve all of your claims they will send you a letter notifying you of their findings and give you a period of time in which to respond (usually 90 days).


Maintenance are only required for Utility patents.  They are required three times over the life of the patent. 

Click Here to see the payment time periods


To see the Maintenance fee structure click here and select an option from the “VIEW THE LATEST FEE SCHEDULE” box at the top of the page.

How long does a Patent protection last

Utility Patent expires 20 years from the date of filing.


Design Patent expires 14 years from the date of filing.

International Patents

When you file a patent application in the U.S. you can also file for a Patent overseas. 


Click here to learn more about International Patents


See Selling Your Idea
Handling Patent Infringments





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