What’s Involved in Applying for a Patent?

A U.S. patent for an invention is issued as a property right to the inventor by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The right conferred upon the inventor by the USPTO, when granted, is defined as “the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling” the invention in the U.S. To get a U.S. patent, the inventor must file an application in the USPTO. The process is quite involved and includes many steps. Here is a brief overview of what the patent application process involves:

  • Meet with an attorney to determine if the invention is generally patentable.

  • Perform a patent search to determine if the invention already exists.

  • An application is prepared with claims and formal drawings.

  • Approximately 24 months after filing the application, an examiner at the USPTO will review the claims and determine whether or not they will be allowed to issue. Generally, at least some of the claims are refused.

  • If the application is refused, the applicant responds to the examiner with arguments for allowance or amendments to the claims to overcome the examiner’s rejections.

  • The examiner provides a second, usually final, determination on whether or not to allow the claims.

  • If allowable claims were found, a notice of allowance is issued by the USPTO.

  • The applicant pays an issue fee.

  • The patent issues.

  • Maintenance fees are paid to the USPTO three times during the life of the issued patent.

As you can see, the patent application process is rather lengthy and applicants can meet with potential obstacles along the way. For this reason, most patent applicants take advantage of the legal assistance provided by patent attorneys early on.  

I would be delighted to assist you along the way as you begin your patent application. Please feel free to contact me with any questions you might have or for general assistance.

Kelly G. Swartz is a patent attorney licensed to practice in front of the United States Patent and Trademark Office and in the state of Florida.  She limits her practice to intellectual property law including patent, trademark, copyright, and trade secrets.