The Big Picture of the Patent Process
Getting a patent can be a pretty intense process. But, patents can be extremely valuable during their 20-year lifespan. They represent the strongest legal leverage on the planet and they catch the attention of the Fortune 500. You should plan on spending between about $20,000 – $40,000 or more during this 20-year process. That means that your patent should be earning you at least that much money in return and hopefully much more. The process can be split into four steps.
Step 1: Due Diligence
You are your first and most important investor, so this step, while optional, is critical to your success. This step is when you look around to see if your invention is actually new. Look discretely because you still have to keep the invention a secret. You should do some free looking yourself, first and then have a professional search done next. The search typically takes about three to four weeks to complete. As long as the search results look good, you can move to the next step.
Step 2: Application
The second step is the application step, where we prepare and file a patent application. This step usually takes anywhere from six to nine weeks, on average. This is where you carefully describe your invention, following the ten thousand pages of rules at the patent office, and making sure that you prepare for the next step. Once this step is complete, you are patent pending and do not have to keep your invention secret any longer.
Step 3: Negotiation
Most patent applications are initially rejected and you generally have to convince the Examiners at the patent office that they will not get into trouble by allowing your patent. This step usually takes six to eighteen months and there is no guarantee that you will make it through. But, if you do, you will have your patent and move on to the next step.
Step 4: Allowance & Maintenance
The fourth and final step is the allowance and maintenance step. In this step, there are four sets of filings to make with the government and four fees to pay. You cannot pay early and you cannot pay late or you lose your rights. Each set is about three to four years from the previous set, so it is critical to keep track of deadlines and keep in contact with your attorney so that nothing is missed.
If you are able to go through all these steps successfully, you will have a patent that lasts for twenty years and that is a great asset to have.