If you plan to file for a patent in Austin, Texas, contact The Patent Professor today to get expert help through this complicated process. The patent application process can seem opaque, and oftentimes rejections are issued due to things as simple as procedural errors, omitted information, or unclear explanations. With our 20 years of experience with successful patent applications, we will help you from your first form to your accepted application to be sure that your ideas are protected.

What Is a Patent?

A patent is a formal, legal protection issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office for new and useful inventions. Patents can apply to utilities, machines, processes, chemical compounds, designs, and even plants. The purpose of a patent is to give an inventor the ability to protect their intellectual property from competitors for a set period of time, allowing them to capitalize on their original ideas without worrying about direct replicants turning up in the market. Since a patent is so restrictive about who is able to use it, there is an extensive vetting process before it is issued. This is important because if the USPTO were to grant patents for things that were common, obvious, or not novel, it would create unnecessary restrictions and impede technological progress. If, upon receiving a complete application, the USPTO determines that the proposed invention is unique and useful, the patent will be issued and the inventor will be able to use their legal exclusivity as they best see fit. Read more about each type of patent below.

Utility Patent

Utility patents are the most commonly-issued patents from the USPTO. A utility patent applies to anything that has a specific use, such as a machine, an object, a process, or a compound. In order for a utility to be eligible for patent protection, the USPTO must determine that it is unique, nonobvious, and useful. If the application does not meet these requirements (and more), the patent will be denied. Obvious utilities would entail anything that is already common knowledge. For example, a patent application for a rock as a tool to break things would be denied outright.  In addition to obvious utilities, an applicant cannot simply make a slight alteration to an existing utility and claim that it is an entirely unique and patentable application. Utility patents grant the patent-holder 20 years of exclusivity, at which time they are free to determine how their patent is used in the market.

Design Patent

A design patent is issued to protect a specific appearance of an item, but does not take function into account at all. Design patents can apply to the package design of a computer, the style of a car bumper, or other aesthetic innovations. If a unique design additionally serves a functional purpose, it may either require a combination of design and utility patents, or may be determined to be solely applicable to a utility patent. If you are unsure of which patent to apply for, consult with a professional for advice on how to proceed. The purpose of a design patent is to prevent competitors from replicating the styling of a known product, which can lead to market confusion and may ultimately dilute a brand’s trustworthiness based on appearance. For example, there are many companies that produce smartphones, but Apple holds the design patents for iPhones. In addition to a variety of design patents they hold on each phone, they may hold utility patents for certain ways that the packaging lends to a function of the phone, but again, they are two separate patents. Design patents have a 14-year term.

Plant Patent

A plant patent is, as the name suggests, a patent reserved specifically for the development of new plant species (excluding tubers). For a plant to be eligible for patent protection, it must be entirely new, and must be produced asexually. If the plant is determined to not be new, or is unable to be produced asexually by grafts or other forms of hybridization, it will not be granted a patent. Therefore, any plant grown from a pod or seed will be denied for a patent application, and any asexually-produced plant that is already a known species will also be denied. Plant patents, like utility patents, have a 20-year term that begins on the issue date.

Provisional Application for Patent

If you have intellectual property that you believe will qualify for a patent, but you do not have all of the information together or have not developed it to the point of specificity required, your patent attorney may suggest that you submit a provisional application. A provisional application grants the filer a 12-month period in which they are given temporary, limited rights that offer some protections of a patent but requires less information to be submitted, and costs less. During the 12-month period that a provisional application is active, a product may be designated as “Patent Pending.” If a patent application is not submitted before the end of the 12-month provisional application period, a final patent will not be issued for the intellectual property.

Should I File For a Patent?

If you believe that you have devised a unique process, machine, utility, design, or plant, it is highly suggested that you file a patent to protect your innovation. If you are unsure if your intellectual property is eligible for a patent, it is best that you consult with a professional to determine your options. If you have determined that your idea is both unique and useful, but are unable to compile all of the necessary information or funding to finalize a patent, your next-best option may be to submit a provisional application to allow for more time to complete your patent application.

How Can The Patent Professor Help Me?

The Patent Professor is available to help you through the entire process of a patent application in Austin, Texas. Applying can be confusing and intimidating, and the USPTO is not available to offer guidance through the process. To avoid unnecessary rejections, confusion about required information, or uncertainty about the validity of your idea, The Patent Professor will walk you through each step to determine the appropriate course of action, and ensure that you have the best chance of having your submission approved. The Patent Professor has over 20 years of experience with successful patent applications, and we look forward to helping you achieve your goals.