Patent searches may be “quick and dirty” or extensive and in-depth looks into the existing patents, patent applications, and other publications that already exist in technologies related to your idea. The patent laws do not require you to perform a search prior to submitting a patent application, but it may be very useful under various circumstances.
There are many free tools that you yourself may use to perform a patent search such as the USPTO website or even Google Patents. However, an attorney or a patenting company, like InventHelp, will likely provide faster and better results. Most law firms primarily use these same tools. In addition, other software can be utilized to perform more extensive searches.
Although drafting may be the first written step in the process, a good patent truly begins with a properly fleshed-out idea that can be presented as patentable subject matter. “Ideas” alone are not patentable subject matter.
And drafting may be performed in different manners for different subject matter. The major components that will be drafted include a detailed written description, the claims, and the drawings. Each component is vital to a successful patent application.
Once your patent has been drafted to your satisfaction, it is filed with the USPTO. Filing can be done by mail or by the Electronic Filing System (EFS). EFS, the preferred method, is cheaper, faster, and more reliable. Filing begins the process of “prosecuting” your patent through the patent office.
Although the word “prosecution” may stir up images of Law & Order with an accused murderer being hammered with questions on the witness stand, the patent prosecution process is considerably less intense. Essentially, the patent attorney and the patent examiner correspond by letter discussing whether or not your patent application passes the tests of the U.S. patent laws.
However, most patents applications are not even examined for at least a year, maybe two. They are typically published after 18 months and examined, shortly thereafter, for a first time. Yes, a first time. Most are examined at least a second time, and many others are examined multiple times.
Your application may be rejected entirely during those times or parts of it may be rejected. The entire patent prosecution process may last for 3-5 years before your patent is granted and involve many ups, downs, and lateral moves.
You may not be interested in obtaining a patent but would simply like a professional opinion about your situation and invention ideas. Perhaps you would like to know whether or not you are infringing someone else’s patent, or you may want to explain to potential investors the type of patent protection your invention may be capable of receiving.