The genesis of the patent system, in the United States, was to grant the original inventor an official government-certified property right that would encourage other people to invent new products to improve living and working conditions.

The first US patent was reported to be registered in 1790 — to a Philadelphian named Samuel Hopkins, who had invented a new innovative process for making potash, an ingredient in fertilizer.

Every US patent application begins with an entrepreneur’s or inventor’s invention, and every design starts with one or multiple ideas for a specific item for use within a particular industry segment. Though views are not patentable, there will be a time in the creative thinking process when the idea evolves into a vision with sufficient details to be considered the basis for the commencement of patient application submission.

To have a protectable invention, you must be able to define it with relevant details so that someone of skill in the related technical field can recognize how to both make and use the invention.

The following are the steps that a typical inventor completes for the research and planning and document preparation activities required for submission of a patent application with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Step 1: Protect the Invention

To protect your invention, you may need a patent, trademark, copyright, marketing plan, trade secrets, or some combination of these. Before you begin preparing a patent application, determine if you require a patent or some other form of Intellectual Property protection.

USPTO supporting information is available at the below links.

What are patents, trademarks, service marks, and copyrights?

Inventor resources

Online services 

Step 2: Determine Patentability

To determine if you can patent your invention, you will need to obtain answers specific to your situation, including:

  1. Who can apply for a patent?
  2. What can and cannot be patented?
  3. How do I know if my invention is patentable?
  4. How long does patent protection last?
  5. How much does it cost to get a patent?

Browse Patent FAQ page to learn more about the Patent Process.

An essential pre-requisite for patent application submission is to identify if the invention has been previously publicly disclosed.

Thus, a search of all previous public disclosures is a prerequisite for patent submission. A search of foreign patents and printed publications is highly recommended to reduce potential risk.

Step 3: Identify & Understand Patent Types

There are three types of patents – Utility, Design, and Plant.

Utility Patent

Utility patents are available to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, the machine, article of manufacture, or compositions of matters, and unique or meaningful improvement thereof.

Applying for a Utility Patent

Maintaining your Utility Patent

Business Method Patent issues

Design Patent

Design patents are available to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture.

Definition of a Design Patent

Difference Between Design and Utility Patents

How long does Patent Protection last for a Design Patent?

Plant Patent

Plant patents are available to individuals who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant.

Introduction to Plant Patents

Guide to Plant Patents 

More Plant Patent information 

Step 4: Complete Pre-filing Activities

What are the different types of Patent applications/proceedings?

Once you have determined the type of Patent that you need, you should develop your application strategy and whether to use professional legal and business consulting services.

Do you require a Provisional or Nonprovisional Application?

Utility and Plant patent applications can be filled using either a provisional or nonprovisional application.

A provisional application is a quick and inexpensive way for inventors to establish a U.S. filing date for their invention for claiming in a later filed nonprovisional application.

What is the cost of filing a patent?

A patent application is subject to the payment of a basic fee and additional fees that include a search fee, an examination fee, and an issue fee. Depending on your application, there may also be excess claims fees.

How long will this take?

Estimate how long it will be until you receive your first letter from the USPTO in response to your application. The USPTO provides an Estimator Tool for the patent submission process.

Should you hire a Patent Attorney or Agent?

The preparation of an application for patent and the conducting of the proceedings in the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to obtain the license is an undertaking requiring the knowledge of patent law and rules and Office practice and procedures, as well as knowledge of the scientific or technical matters involved in the particular invention.

Inventors may prepare their applications and file them in the USPTO and conduct the proceedings themselves, but unless they are familiar with these matters or study them in detail, they may get into considerable difficulty. While a patent may be obtained in many cases by persons not skilled in this work, there would be no assurance that the license obtained would adequately protect the particular invention.

Step 5: Prepare and Submit Patent Application

Reference the Patent Application Guides for legal requirements for filing the type of Patent Application identified for your submission.

The initial application and correct fee required for submission with required document parts needed for obtaining a filing date.

  1. Parts of Application to filed together.
  2. Application number.
  3. Filing date.
  4. Patent Application Filing Fees.
  5. Payment of Fees.
  6. Required Filing Fees.

The application can be submitted to USPTO by US Mail or online.

The EFS-Web, is the USPTO’s electronic filing system for patent applications, to submit Utility patent applications, Provisional applications and many other types of Office correspondence to the USPTO via the Internet.

“If we worked on the assumption that what is accepted as true really is true, then there would be little hope for advance.”
Orville and Wilbur Wright  

The Way Forward

Knowledge Compass provides inventors and entrepreneurs professional consulting services that support the five steps for US patent application processing and activities.