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Provisional Patent Application
Provisional Patent Service
Easy, fast, and cheap way to protect your invention. A provisional application has a pendency lasting 12 months from the date when it is filed.
Design Patent Application
Design Patent Service
Design patent protects the appearance (but not the function) of your product or invention which give you patent rights for 15 years.
Utility Patent Application
Utility Patent Service
A Utility patent is among the valuable asset in the world. Full utility (non-provisional) patent will give you patent rights for 20 years.

U.S. Patent Application Process

Here are the basic steps to drafting and filing a patent application in the United States.

All patent applications in the United States are handled by the federal U.S. Patent & Trademark Office ("USPTO"). For instance, this agency evaluates patent applications and issues patents. This article provides an overview of that process, particularly meant for individuals considering embarking upon it.

Obtaining a patent is a lengthy and sometimes challenging process, and requires some preliminary research.

You must start by filing an application with the USPTO, which will be reviewed by patent examiners to ensure that it meets a series of qualifications. Before doing so, however, you must first:

  • determine whether your invention has commercial potential
  • make sure that it meets the requirements for patentability, and
  • perform a thorough patent search to ensure that another person or entity does not already control the patent.

Once you are confident that your invention is a good candidate for patent approval, you are ready to start to prepare the patent application.

What's included in a Patent (non-provisional) Application?

The key elements of a patent are:

  • the specification
  • the claims
  • the abstract, and
  • the drawings.

The specification, with the help of the drawings, explains how to make and use the invention. The claims define the scope or boundaries of the patent. The application must also include an abstract that summarizes the invention.

The Specification

The specification is constructed of several elements. Collectively, these form a narrative that describes and distinguishes the invention. Every specification must describe the invention so that someone knowledgeable in the field of the invention (whether it be medicine, machinery, or something else) can make and use it without further experimentation.

The specification must also disclose the "best mode" of creating and using the invention. If the inventor knows of a better way (or "best mode" by which) to create the invention and fails to disclose it, that failure could result in the loss of patent rights.

The particular parts of the specification include:

  • Title of the invention. Your title should be brief, but also technically accurate and descriptive.
  • Background of the invention. You must include the field or subject matter of the invention and a description of all relevant prior inventions. Here's where thorough research pays off. When you refer to earlier inventions, point out specific problems that your invention solves.
  • Brief summary of the invention. This is an overview of what you claim your invention can do. Show how your invention solves the problems you described in the background section.
  • Detailed description of the invention. Provide a thorough description of the structure and operation of the invention. It must be complete enough that persons of ordinary skill in the field could follow it to make and use the invention.

The Claims of the Patent

The claims of a patent are detailed statements of exactly what your invention covers. Because the scope of your patent rights are based on what you declare in the claims, they are among the most important section of the application. Be certain that your claims are worded carefully and accurately to ensure proper protection.

The Drawings of the Patent

You will also need to include drawings with your application, if they are necessary for showing how the invention works. Some applications (such as for pure chemicals) do not include a drawing, unless a process or chemical combination can be diagrammed by a flowchart.

Your patent drawings must illustrate every aspect of the invention specified in the claims. The USPTO has strict requirements for both claims and drawings, so be sure to study other patents in your field to become familiar with the format of these sections. All patent applications must include a drawing if the subject matter permits.

The Patent Examiner: What to Expect After Submitting the Patent Application

Each patent application filed with the USPTO goes through a rigorous examination process to ensure its completeness and validity. The application is assigned to a "patent examiner" (an employee of the USPTO), who inspects it to make sure that:

  • the invention meets the statutory requirements for patentability, and
  • the application itself follows the required USPTO format and language.

You and the examiner will exchange letters or phone calls until you reach an agreement about which parts of your invention the patent will cover, if any. This process typically takes between one and three years.

Patent Basic FAQs

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What is a trademark?

A trademark is a brand. It’s a word, phrase, symbol, or combination of those, that identifies your company as the exclusive provider of your product or service. A trademark must be unique or distinctive and cannot consist of common or generic terms alone.

What does trademark do?

A trademark identifies your company as the exclusive source of your product or service. To the average consumer, a trademark is an instantly recognized symbol of your brand’s goodwill and reputation for quality. Over time, a trademark becomes more valuable as the reputation of the brand comes to be more well-known, and the brand accumulates goodwill.

Why register a trademark?

Federal trademark registration for your mark gives you unique benefits that are not available for common law (unregistered) trademarks. Among other things, a registered trademark owner can sue infringers in federal court, and block other people from trying to register a similar trademark in a related field.  Registered trademark owners may also be able to block counterfeits of their branded products from being imported Into the country. In addition, if you become involved in a dispute about a domain name, having a registered trademark can help you prove ownership.

What makes a good trademark name?

A good trademark name includes at least one unique or “distinctive” word, even if it also includes common, descriptive, or generic terms. Trademarks are grouped into categories according to how strong they are:

  1. The strongest type of trademark is a “fanciful” mark, which is a made-up word or phrase.  Famous brands “Xerox” and “Kleenex” are examples of fanciful marks.   

  2. An arbitrary mark, such as “Apple” for a computer brand, is another strong type of trademark that uses a real word or words in an unexpected or unusual way. 

  3. A “suggestive” mark hints at some characteristic of the products or services covered by the trademark. Suggestive marks combine an imaginative element with a descriptive element. Examples of suggestive marks are “Roach Motel” for a cockroach trap, or “Pizza Heaven” for a restaurant.

  4. A “merely descriptive” mark lacks an imaginative element, and is therefore not strong enough to function as a trademark on its own. As an example, “The Meatball Bar” would be considered “merely descriptive” of a gastropub that serves meatballs.   If the government deems your trademark to be “merely descriptive,” you will have to prove you’ve been using it in commerce for more than 5 years, or add a substantial logo design. You will not be able to claim exclusive rights in the descriptive parts of the trademark name; these will have to be “disclaimed.”

What you can trademark?

You can trademark a word, phrase, symbol, or combination of the three. Whenever possible, a trademark should be followed by the common descriptive name (noun) of the product it modifies.

What you cannot trademark?

You cannot trademark a proper noun, a place name, someone else’s name, or the common term for a product or service. You also cannot trademark a slogan or informational sentence unless it’s closely tied to a specific product or service.  Trademark law requires that your trademark must be unique and “distinctive” so that people can instantly recognize your brand.

In addition, to qualify for trademark protection, your logo or brand name must be associated with specific products or services.  A trademark only protects your exclusive right to use the logo or brand name for the products or services listed on your trademark application   You cannot reserve or “sandbag” a trademark name or phrase for later use with unidentified products or services.

What is a common law trademark?

Common law trademark is usually established under the United States law when someone uses a business name, slogan or logo in commerce, even if it's yet to be registered. Therefore, you may decide not to pay to register a trademark since common law trademark exists.

However, the common law trademark right is limited to the geographic location where the mark is used as against the federal protection customarily acquired when a mark is listed with the USPTO. Hence, unless registered, the use of a mark can be geographically limited, which hampers the ability to grow the brand. On the one hand, a person using a mark in a limited geographic location could be boxed in by another person who offensively registers a similar trademark.

What is the difference between "use in commerce” and “intent to use”?

Trademark rights are tied to sales and commercial activity under a “use it or lose it” framework.  Trademarks last as long as the brand name or logo is used for commercial activity. Trademark rights are considered to be abandoned when the mark is no longer used in commerce.  

If a brand name or logo is already being used on product labels or to promote business services, it is considered to be “used in commerce.” The owner can apply for an “in use” federal trademark under Trademark Act.  The owner will need to include with the application “proof of use” of the trademark. The most common type of “proof of use” includes photos showing the brand or logo on the company’s product packaging or labels, and the date of the first shipment to an out-of-state customer.  

If a business has not yet launched the brand or logo on product labels or begun to promote its services, the trademark is considered to be “intent to use.” The owner can apply for an “intent to use” federal trademark under the Trademark Act.  The USPTO will process the trademark application but will NOT issue a registration certificate. Instead, once the USPTO approves the application, it will wait until the owner submits valid “proof of use” of the trademark.

What is the difference between trademark, patent and copyright?

TRADEMARKS protect brand names and logos that identify a certain company as the source of a particular product or service.  The United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) grants and administers federal trademarks. Federal trademarks protect commercial activity across state lines.  State trademarks are also available, but protection under a state trademark is limited to commercial activity inside that one state’s borders.

PATENTS protect original inventions. The USPTO grants and administers patents.  A patent can last up to 20 years before it expires. For an invention to be patent protected, the USPTO must agree that it meets 4 requirements: 

  1. The invention is statutory (subject matter is not illegal)
  2. The invention is new
  3. The invention is useful
  4. The invention is non-obvious

Each of these requirements involves a complicated legal analysis.

COPYRIGHTS protect original artistic works.  Federal copyrights are granted and administered by the US Copyright Office. (Copyrights can also arise at common law, but enforcing common law rights is very difficult.) 

Under federal copyright law, the original artist or author has the exclusive right to make and sell copies of their works, create derivative works, and perform or display their works publicly.  These exclusive rights generally last for 70 years.

Can I file a trademark application on my own?

Yes, if you are a US citizen, you can file your own application at teas.uspto.gov.  But the odds of success for such applications are very low. 

Non-citizens and foreign corporations are required to have a US-licensed trademark attorney file their application and represent them during the yearlong registration process. 

The United States is one of the most difficult countries in the world to register a trademark, and US trademarks are in high demand worldwide. For that reason, the US trademark registry is very crowded. Most US trademark applications will receive at least one refusal.  Approximately 80% of US applications filed by non-attorneys do not succeed in registration.

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