The complete process of Patent in the United States
To obtain a patent in the United States, certain things need to be clear in an inventor’s mind before going for the patent process. One simple mistake by an inventor can create a big impact on their inventions, sometimes it leads to a nightmare for them when their inventions got into trouble. Some steps are listed below from them every inventor who wishes to obtain a patent should be aware of: –
STEP 1: – Determine the type of patent and its eligibility criteria for obtaining a patent in the United States.
There are three types of patent existed in the United States: –
a) Utility Patent: A utility patent is a patent that protects how the invention works and/or is used, i.e., the “functional” aspects of the invention. To qualify an invention for utility patent protection, it must be an apparatus, process or method, article of manufacture, or composition of matter. It must include a novelty feature, inventive step over the prior arts and must have industrial applicability. The utility patent gives the monopoly right of 20 years to the inventor that exclude others from manufacturing, using, selling, or importing their invention.
b) Design Patent: A design patent protects any new, original and ornamental appearance of an article of manufacture. An article of manufacture, as it relates to patent law, describes any new or non-obvious physical product. Article of manufacture must fulfill the novelty, originality and ornamentally criteria to get protection under US patent law. Design patents are valid for 14 years from the date of issue if filed before May 13, 2015, or 15 years from the date of issue if filed on or after May 13, 2015.
c) Plant Patent: A plant patent is granted by the United States government to an inventor who has invented or discovered and asexually reproduced a distinct and new variety of plant, other than a tuber propagated plant or a plant found in an uncultivated state. Plant patents are valid for 20 years from the date of filing of the application in the United States.
STEP 2: – Search for closest prior art to determine whether your invention is patentable or not!
This is the main and foremost step of patent processing, it determines the future of your invention and gives a complete overview of the closest prior arts available, related to your invention. At this stage, many of the inventors take a huge risk, they think that their invention or idea is novel and more ahead of the available arts and don’t go for the searching process. They believe that searching for prior art is not necessary and directly files their patent application in the government office. By this act, most of the time they lose their invention and suffer massive losses in terms of money.
Prior art searching helps the inventor to find out whether their invention is patentable or not. Novelty and non-obviousness are the two features that are determined through the searching process. Lacking these features in your invention results in the rejection of your patent application. Searching of prior art gives an exact idea in which way their invention is going and what amendments are required in their invention to obtain patent protection. E.g. if their invention is not patentable, it can save lots of investment and time of the inventors.
For assisting in the searching process, you can go for patent attorneys or persons who working in the patent field.
STEP 3: – Filing Stage, Once you identified the type of patent and the novelty of your invention after searching, then go for the filing process. The filing includes the submission of forms given by the government office along with the fees that vary on the type of applicant (micro, small and large entity) who is seeking protection under the US patent act. According to the law, the inventor, or a person to whom the inventor has assigned or is under an obligation to assign the invention, and a legal representative of the inventor may file for a patent.
If the inventor is not sure about his invention and still in the working stage, he can file a provisional patent application in case of utility patents. It gives the inventor more time (twelve months from the date of filing) to complete his invention and also helps in securing the priority date of the patent application. However, the provisional application is not available for design and plant patents.
STEP 4: – Publication of your patent application
After filing, generally, Patent applications are published 18 months after the earliest priority date of the application (date of priority or filing whichever is earlier). The publication of a patent application marks the date at which it is publicly available and therefore at which it forms full prior art for other patent applications worldwide. Patent applications are published in the official gazette of government.
STEP 5: – Examination of patent application
Once your patent application is published, the USPTO examines your patent application, first of all, they check whether your application is complete or not or it is according to their official standards or not. If your application is incomplete, you will be notified of the deficiencies by an official letter from the USPTO, known as an Office Action. You will be given a time period to complete the application filing (a surcharge may be required). If the omission is not corrected within a specified time period, the application will be returned or otherwise disposed of; the filing fee if submitted will be refunded less a handling fee as outlined in the fee schedule.
Once your application has been accepted as complete, it will be assigned for examination to a patent examiner.
STEP 6: – Work with the examiner
The patent examiner will review the inventive features of your invention. He examines the contents of the application to determine if your patent application meets all the requirements of the invention to be granted or not. If the examiner does not think your application meets the requirements, the examiner will explain the reason(s). You will have opportunities to make amendments or argue against the examiner’s objections. If you fail to respond to the examiner’s requisition, within the required time, your application will be abandoned.
If your application is twice rejected, you may appeal the examiner’s decision to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB).
For any assistance, you can hire a patent attorney or a person working in the patent field or a person who knows how to deal with patent matters.
STEP 7: – Approval of your patent application
If your patent examiner thinks that your patent application is satisfactory and meets all the requirements of an invention to be granted, you will receive a notice of allowance. A Notice of Allowance is a document sent to a patent applicant from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) after a patent examiner has decided to issue the requested patent.
STEP 8: – Duty of an inventor to maintain his patent
After receiving notice of allowance, it is inventor duty to maintain his patent by paying patent annuity or maintenance fee or renewal fee to the USPTO. It is the fee that is paid to a patent office to maintain a granted patent or patent application in force. Maintenance fees are required to maintain a patent in force beyond 4, 8, and 12 years after the issue date for utility and reissue utility patents. If the maintenance fee and any applicable surcharge are not paid on time, the patent will expire.