Silicon Valley is a hotbed for innovation and the birthplace of many high-value companies. Inventors, innovators, and companies alike are all seeking to protect their intellectual property, and one of the best protections for inventions is a patent. Below you’ll find an overview of patent basics, how to determine if your invention is patentable, and the process of applying for a patent.
A patent is a type of intellectual property right granted to an inventor by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). A patent gives the inventor “the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling” their invention. Typically, patents are granted with 20-year terms from the date of application filing, and the inventor is expected to enforce their patent without the support of the USPTO.
The USPTO classifies patents as one of three types:
- Utility patents: Utility patents apply to new and useful processes, machines, articles of manufacture, or compositions of matter, or any new and useful improvements thereof.
- Design patents: Design patents apply to new, original, and ornamental designs for articles of manufacture.
- Plant patents: Plant patents are granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant.
Is My Invention Patentable?
The first step in the patent process is to determine if your invention is patentable. The USPTO has posted a helpful online resource for inventors to help assess the patentability of their inventions. The USPTO grants rights for utility, design, and plant patents for inventions that are “new and useful.” Generally speaking, an invention is eligible for patent provided it is novel, non-obvious, and has not been previously publicly disclosed.
In addition to knowing the criteria that make an invention patent-eligible, bear in mind that there are certain things that are expressly not patentable. These include the laws of nature, physical phenomena and abstract ideas.
The Patent Process in Brief
Once you have determined which type of patent you wish to apply for, and have confirmed that your invention is patentable, you can begin the process of applying for your patent. The patent application process can be costly, so now is a good time to make sure you have sufficient funds for USPTO fees including the basic fee, search fee, an examination fee, and the issue fee. This is also a good time to consider hiring an attorney to help assist you through the process.
Now, you or your patent attorney have drafted the patent application and are ready to submit your initial application for the type of patent you seek. After you submit your application, you will be assigned an examiner to review the contents of your application. If your application is rejected, you will have the right to amend your application or argue against the examiner’s objections. This process can be time consuming and require the help of competent patent attorneys or patent agents. Eventually, if the examiner finds your application eligible for issuance, you will receive a Notice of Allowance, which will list the issue fee and publication fee which may need to be paid prior to the patent being issued.
Speak with a Silicon Valley Intellectual Property Attorney About Obtaining Your Patent
The patent process can be a long and costly one. It is a good idea to consider hiring a lawyer experienced in handling issues of intellectual property and patent applications to assist you in the process. The USPTO recommends hiring an attorney to assist you if you are not experienced in performing patent searches. The attorneys at Startup Company Counsel in Silicon Valley, California are well-versed in the patent process. Call us today at (408) 441-7555 or contact us online to schedule a time to discuss your patent application.