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Patents

Apply for a utility, design or plant patent.

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Manage your patents FAQs

  • How do I protect my idea before I get my patent?

    Often when an inventor or business creates an idea or product, they are understandably excited; however, it's important to protect your idea from your competitors. In some cases, the competitor may even work inside your own company. It's essential to protect your idea before it is officially released. You can help protect your idea by:

    Applying for a provisional patent

    It is not difficult to apply for a provisional patent and it can help protect your idea before the product or invention is fully complete (up to 12 months). You can apply for a provisional patent with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

    Limit access to your idea

    You should limit access to the details of your idea to help protect it from being copied before you have a chance to apply for a patent. Only those who are directly working on the project should have access to the product or even the product notes. Keep details offline and restrict discussions with family or friends.

    Use Non-Disclosure Agreements

    Employees, as well as anyone with access to the product, should sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement. Investors, manufacturers, or journalists with access to the product before it is released to the public, should also sign this agreement.

  • How do I raise capital with a provisional patent?

    Startups often start pursuing funding before they receive their patent. Provisional patent applications are low-cost to file and help give you time to raise capital before manufacturing. Provisional patents often help startups raise more capital than they would without one, so it's often worth applying for.

    To help raise capital for your idea, take the following steps:

    • Research the market, exhaustively. If you cannot prove that a market exists for your product, you'll have a hard time acquiring funding. Your enthusiasm will only get you so far.
    • Review your business plan, executive statement and operating agreements. Your investors will want to see a viable business with dependable owners and limited debt.
    • Know how your product can be manufactured, distributed and marketed. Check into overseas manufacturing as well.
    • Create a few test products along with packaging ideas. Be willing to adjust if needed.
    • Make a list and description of other owned patents that may support the product.
    • Trademark associated terms, if applicable. You'll want to carefully research product names and variations.
  • Can I sell my patent?

    Yes, you can. You can sell it outright or enter a Licensing Agreement to have another company manufacture your product. Researching the market and competition may help you determine the value of your patent.

    Selling your patent outright

    If you sell your patent, you sell all rights to the invention. Some inventors do this if they don't want to run a business and would rather go on to invent new products. It's often a one-time purchase.

    Licensing your product

    If you sign a Licensing Agreement, you are allowing another business to manufacture, distribute, market or sell your product in exchange for royalty payments.

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