Can you patent an idea? How to patent an idea in the USA?

A patent protects the invention against any commercial or other forms of exploitation by competitors, investors, business accomplices, and third parties. But can a patent offer protection simply to an idea? Or more specifically can I patent an idea?

A straightforward answer to the question would be “No”. It’s hard to patent an invention idea unless and until you have produced the invention. Patents are for protecting inventions. They are not for protecting ideas.

However, this doesn’t at all mean that ideas are not valuable. It’s only that in absence of a tangible manifestation of the idea, it will be hard to obtain exclusive copyright or patent protection.

However, any patent application takes 2-3 years to land on the patent examiner’s table. This allows a substantial time frame for the applicant to turn the idea into a tangible product or service. 

If you are planning to file a patent for your idea and wondering where to start, this blog will answer all your questions in detail.

Ideas That You Can and You Can’t Patent 

The patent examiner may turn down your patent based on multiple factors. The primary among these is ambiguity. If your idea is too abstract and does not manifest itself into a useful application, product, or service, it’s hard to imagine that your patent application will get the nod of the patent examiner. 

You should consider yourself lucky if you can get a patent for naturally occurring phenomena. There is no point in wasting your time and money on claiming patent rights over a new species of Catfish or for that matter any new plant or animal varieties. 

Finally, the scope of your idea or patent must be well-defined. You can’t speculate results or even claim results that are not backed by conclusive research or data. For instance, let’s say you have created a new line of herbal products that treat dark circles. Now if you make a speculative claim in your patent application that your product ingredients can also be a likely cure for baldness, your claim will only get weaker.  

It’s unwise to make over-the-top claims just to make your idea or invention sound more novel and unique. On the contrary, stretching the scope of your idea beyond the realms of general logic is a mistake you should avoid at all costs. 

Patent Requirements

Patent filings have some pre-defined criteria as well. Make sure that the idea you want to patent meets the following criteria: 

  • The idea should be novel and unique. Your invention and idea should be completely new and non-obvious. It must have no commonalities with any current products or services. Neither should it find mention in any previous patent journals or publications. 
  • Secondly, your invention or idea must not in any way promote or aid illegal activity. If the patent examiners feel that the idea or invention is open to exploitation for immoral use, he is in his rights to cancel the patent application
  • Last but not least, the idea or invention should bring a visible improvement in the work or life of its target audience. If its benefits are vague or open for debate, there is less probability that the patent application will be approved. 

The Standard Patent Application Process

There is a standard procedure that has to be followed to apply for a patent. The procedure can be broken down into seven steps. These include: 

Invention Disclosure: 

The first and foremost step is introducing your invention to an audience. This could investors, potential business partners, or a patent attorney. Ideally, when you are revealing your invention to a third party you should sign a nondisclosure agreement. It will protect your idea or invention from theft or commercial exploitation. 

Patentability Confirmation:

Is your idea unique? Is your invention novel? Are there any other products or services that are using similar ideas? These are questions that you should find answers to before staking your claim on the patent for your idea or invention. Ideally, it’s both, time and cost-effective to hire a patent attorney to do all the research on your behalf. The patent attorney will create a patentability search report based on the research findings.

The decision to File for Patent:

Following detailed research, if you conclude that your idea/invention is unique and novel, the next step is to file the patent application.

Patent Drafting:

This is the most important stage in any patent filing process. The quality of your draft will decide how convincing your patent application is. Unless you are well versed in patent laws and know exactly which parent to file for, it is always wise to hire a professional to prepare the draft for your patent application.

Filing the Patent Application:

Once the draft is prepared and you are 100% satisfied with its scope and details, you can go ahead and file patent application. Along with the patent application, you will also have to submit a patent fee to the USPTO. 

Request for Examination:

Ideally, it can take 2-3 years for your patent application to be reviewed by the patent examiner. However, there are provisions in the law to fast-track patent examination. You will have to pay a considerable amount of fees in exchange for the service. 

Responding to Objections:  

In case there are conflicts or claims of infringement against your patent, the patent petitioner (in this case you) have the right to put forth your defence and resolve all conflicts. Once everything is clarified, your patent is ready for approval. 

Patent Grant:

All boxes having been ticked. Your patent application will finally be approved. For the grant of the application, I’ll be notified by the USPTO on its website and in various public journals. 

Final Words: 

There is no denying the fact that patent application is a complex and time-consuming process. Yet the benefits of acquiring a patent outweigh the challenges faced during the process. Once you have acquired the patent: 

  • Your idea is protected from being copied or exploited
  • You enjoy complete exclusivity over the patent 
  • Patent multiples the commercial opportunities for your product or service
  • A patent also boosts your brand power and increases your revenue potential by a significant margin

Today, thanks to digital solutions filing patents have become a lot easier. A lot of the earlier slow-moving and mundane processes are now automated. Thanks to the internet’s reach and usability, you can even hire registered Patent Services USA using a simple google search. Hiring a patent attorney will take most of the weight off your shoulders and allow you to focus your time and effort on other key business areas

However, please keep in mind that you know your invention or idea better than anybody else. While the patent attorney is there to ensure that your patent application process turns out smooth and hassle-free, your cooperation and communication are very crucial. Ensure that the patent attorney understands your invention to the minutest of detail.

We hope that the information we shared in this article was helpful to you. If there is anything more that we could add, please share your suggestions in the comment section. Your inputs are always welcomed!

Read More: 3 Tips to New Business Owners about Company Incorporation

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