Whether you have invented a product, genetically engineered a plant or come up with a unique design for a container or logo, you probably have many questions about how to go about getting your product patented. It is important to know what type of patent for which to apply and whether or not your product can be patented in the first place. There are certain steps you must follow in order to avoid problems, and you must make sure to document your invention process every step of the way. Your attorney can help you with filing paperwork and putting together the necessary documentation for your patent. Remember that patent law is very complex, and when a company is sued for copyright infringement, it can be tied up in court for a long time.  Before you meet with your attorney, there are a few basic facts about patents to learn. Here are answers to frequently asked questions.

What are the Three Types of Patents?

The three fundamental types of patents are utility, plant, and design. A utility patent is the most far-reaching of all the patents, in that it is given to anyone who invents a useful product or comes up with a new methodology for accomplishing a goal in business or science. The product must be considered significantly different than other products of its type. You may be able to patent an improvement to a product, but that improvement must be something that would not be obvious to an ordinary person. Establishing whether or not a product improvement is obvious can be a daunting task. If you are attempting to file a patent for an improvement to a product, a patent examiner is likely to search through patents to see if there is another product out there that has similar characteristics to the product in question. If the product you are trying to improve could be made better by adding an element or feature from another already patented product, your application may be denied. Once you do have a utility patent, they are good for 20 years. However, you will have to pay maintenance fees along the way. Utility patents are rarely extended and almost never renewed, It takes an actual act of Congress to renew a patent. Plant patents are issued to genetic engineers who genetically engineer or discover a new type of vegetation. They are the least often issued type of patent and can be very lucrative as they are often rewarded for new types of seeds that can be sold to agricultural companies. These patents are good for 20 years, but as with utility patents, you will have to pay a maintenance fee throughout the life of your patent. A design patent is awarded to distinctive designs that are not functional, but aesthetically unique. The Coke™ bottle is a well-known patented design. Design patents are good for 14 years and you will never have to pay a maintenance fee.

What Cannot be Patented?

Contrary to popular belief, an idea alone cannot be patented. You may not patent a natural phenomenon or an artistic work. If you want to make sure no one steals your screenplay or novel, for instance, you should apply for a copyright through the United States Copyright office.

Does it have a useful purpose?

The first thing you want to do when you are introducing a new product is to make sure your product has a useful purpose. There is a reason the inventor of the pet rock did not trademark or patent his idea.

Research

You always want to make sure that you and another inventor are not attempting to patent the same product or methodology. Although it may be heartbreaking to find out that your idea is not an original one, it would be worse to spend all of your time and money only to be denied a patent because someone else had the same idea. Be sure to run a patent search on the United States Patent Office’s website, or visit an office to run your search.

Make a Prototype

If at all feasible, you should make a prototype of your invention. It is best to use personal funds or loans from family and friends. You can start a fundraising campaign on the internet, but you must be careful not to tell people any details about your invention. If you describe your invention publicly, your creation may not be patentable because.

Documentation

You will want to document every single step of your invention in a notebook. In addition to putting your name and contact information on the inside cover, you will want to record the date and time of every entry. You will also need to appoint witnesses to sign off on each page of your notebook. The witnesses that you appoint should be in a profession that is related to your invention.

What is a Preliminary Patent?

If you want the application process to be as seamless as possible, a preliminary patent secures the filing date on your idea and gives you one year to get your materials together.  You will also have time to research and document your invention. A PPA doesn’t cost as much money as a non-provisional application and the paperwork is not a matter of public record. A PPA will help you get funding for a prototype because investors will see that you are serious about your idea. It will give you time to make your product patent perfect and work out any kinks that may exist in the design. When filing a preliminary petition, you should be mindful of the fact that you may not get an extension. You will want to make sure that your non-provisional application is completed within a year’s time. If you add additional information to the non-provisional application, and that additional information is significant, the preliminary petition filing date may not be applicable.

How Much Does a Patent Cost?

The cost of an invention depends on the type of product in question and the length of the patent. Once you have obtained a patent, you are not finished paying for it. There will be maintenance fees and, if anyone tries to steal your idea there will be legal fees. If you are going to try marketing your product to other countries, you are going to have to get a patent in each country, so remember to contact each individual patent office to ask about their filing fees. In the United States, a provisional patent is $280 for a large entity and $140 for a small entity. A non-preliminary utility patent is $785 for a small entity and $1,720 for a larger company. A design petition is $480 for a small entity and $960 for a large entity.

What is a Patent Reissue?

You never want to make an error when applying for a patent, as it can be very costly. If you make a mistake that deems your patent wholly or partly inoperative or invalid you will need to do a patent reissue. You will have to pay $3160 for a large entity or $1580 for a small entity. Inventors sometimes get a patent reissue if they decide they want to broaden the scope of their invention or change it in a significant way.

How do you Patent Methodology?

Some methodologies may be patentable if they meet certain criteria. It is usually technical products that get this kind of utility patent. The methodology should apply to a manufacturing technique rather than a business model. The methodology should be easily understood by those who work in the inventor’s industry.

What is a Third-Level Security Review?

A third level security review is performed when the publication of a certain document may threaten national security. Patent applications are matters of public record, and if your product has something to do with weaponry, military security or surveillance, allowing the public to see it may not be appropriate. In these cases, the application would be subject to a secrecy order. The necessity for a secrecy order will be determined by the appropriate government department Once there is a secrecy order in place, it may take up to six months to get a third-level security review to be completed.

What Does Licensing a Patent Mean?

When a person licenses a patent, it means they are giving another individual or entity the right to sell or use their patented invention. There will be certain terms and conditions to the license. The license agreement will include time limits, terms of use, and payment agreements. The agreement will also indicate whether or not the license is exclusive. There are several different reasons an inventor may license his or her product rather than selling it outright. Depending on the nature of the product, an inventor may turn a higher profit in the long run if they license their invention rather than selling it because it gives an inventor the opportunity to license their product to multiple vendors.

What will my Patent Cover?

A United States Petition gives its owner the right to sue for copyright infringement if they see fit. It entitles you to sell or gift your patent or to sell and market your product. Having a patent can give even the smallest companies legal leverage against corporate giants, should the larger company try to use or steal an invention. You have worked hard on your invention and you want to make sure that people get to use it. Good research, diligent documentation and a well-constructed prototype will set you on a path to obtaining a patent. It can take up to two years to get your patent issued and you want to have proper legal representation along the way. The legal professionals at the Patent Professor can help you research and document your product. They can also assist you in filing the patent application and help you answer any questions that a patent examiner may have. Once you have obtained a patent, they can protect you if someone tries to infringe upon that patent. If you decide to sell your invention, they can help you put together a contract. If you decide to market your product, they can help you review paperwork for manufacturing and marketing. The world awaits your new product, the right representation will help you make your vision a reality.