The invention process can vary from invention to invention, but the typical invention process involves the following steps: (1) documentation, (2) confidentiality, (3) patent search, (4) patent application and (5) selling or licensing. We have an Inventions Timeline to give you an idea of how long the invention process can take.
STEP 1: DOCUMENT YOUR INVENTION
In the invention process, documenting your invention is the first thing you should do. “Documenting” your invention involves creating a “paper trail” (or electronic trail) showing that you are the first and true inventor of the invention. Effective March 16, 2013, the United States switched from a “first to invent” to a “first to file” patent system, so documenting your invention date has become less important but still can relevant in a dispute with a third-party claiming you copied their invention.
We have an Invention Disclosure Form you can download and use to document your invention. You should complete this invention disclosure form to the best of your abilities.
STEP 2: MAINTAIN CONFIDENTIALITY
Maintaining the confidentiality of your invention is important to protect your invention until you receive a patent. Since receiving a patent can take one to three years, having third-parties you disclose your invention to sign a Confidentiality Agreement.
A confidentiality agreement (a.k.a. a non-disclosure agreement) prevents a third-party from using or disclosing your confidential invention information without your express permission. If a third-party breaches the confidentiality agreement, they will be in breach of the confidentiality agreement and you can seek immediate legal redress.
STEP 3: PATENT SEARCH
The next step is to determine the patentability of your invention. A patent search by our patent law firm is recommended to determine the current state of the art related to your invention. You can learn more about our U.S. Patent Searches including patent search fees and what we search. Alternatively, you can perform a Free Patent Search Online yourself.
STEP 4: PATENT APPLICATION
If your invention is patentable, the next step is to file a U.S. patent application with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (“USPTO”). The patent application is a complicated process involving not only preparing a written description and drawings of your invention, but also includes the “claims” section. Our experienced Patent Professionals can prepare and file your patent application.
STEP 5: SELL OR LICENSE YOUR PATENT RIGHTS
After your patent application is filed with the U.S. Patent Office and you have “patent pending“, you then should start marketing your patent rights to potential “buyers” or “licensees” (i.e. manufacturers). Keep in mind that you are selling or licensing your patent rights – not your invention since an invention by itself does not provide you with any legal rights. While it is possible to sell your patent rights to a company, most of the time an inventor licenses their patent rights to a company receiving a royalty (i.e. percentage) of the sales by the company. We have free information on how you can sell or license your patent rights to a company.