Patents provide a significant amount of protection for inventors and product developers. But that protection comes at a cost. In addition to being quite expensive, patents take a significant amount of time to register. Depending on the kind of patent you choose, it could take as long as five years before you get an answer, and even then, you could be denied because your patent doesn't qualify. If that happens, you will not necessarily get back the the registration fee, which could be as high as $6000.

Get started Create Your Provisional Patent Application Answer a few questions. We'll take care of the rest.

What Can I Patent?

Not all inventions are patentable. The parameters for acceptance are quite difficult to pass. While it's easy to eliminate inventions that are physical phenomena or abstract ideas, the difficult part comes in determining whether the invention is useful, and then whether it's novel. Useful can cause some issues (as it is sometimes debatable as to what is truly useful) but demonstrating whether it's novel is the hardest. It means that your invention can only be patented if the idea hasn't been patented already in any fashion. In other words, it must be unique.

How Do I Know Whether My Invention Has Already Been Patented?

To find out whether it's already been patented, you'll have to search the database of USPTO records and issued patents. After you pass this test, look to see whether the invention is sufficiently different in its use from what others would create. In many ways, this overlaps the research of the novel idea, but it also allows you some leeway. For instance, the mousetrap is the classic example used to illustrate this concept in many patent law courses. To date, many mousetraps have been patented, but each patented mousetrap is sufficiently different from the other mousetraps on the market that have received patent protection, and therefore novel.

Should I Apply for a Patent?

Applying for a patent can be time-consuming and expensive, but if you're granted a patent, it can provide significant protection for your invention, and it could even become a valuable commodity that's bought and sold. However, before you apply for a patent, you need to consider whether your invention could actually be patented. Most inventions fail when they reach the novel and sufficiently different categories. Obviously, you cannot predict what the USPTO will decide when it evaluates your invention, it's worth doing some research up-front to make sure your idea passes the "useful" and "novel" requirements. Only file if you think you have a fairly good chance of getting through.

Patent law is very nuanced, so an experienced intellectual property lawyer can be your best guide.

Get started Create Your Provisional Patent Application Answer a few questions. We'll take care of the rest.

Get started Create Your Provisional Patent Application Answer a few questions. We'll take care of the rest.