When an individual or a business invests time, energy and resources into creating a new and unique product, process or design, it is important to secure formal legal protections for that creative work. Failure to obtain a patent as soon as possible may allow other individuals and businesses to use, profit from or otherwise infringe upon that creative work without permission. It is for this reason that it is so critical to seek the guidance of an intellectual property attorney in order to begin searching for existing patents as soon as new and unique creative products, processes and/or designs have been developed. Once your patent attorney assures you that your work does not unintentionally violate existing patents tied to similar work, you can begin the non-provisional patent application process in earnest.
Starting a Patent Search
In order to better ensure that your patent application will be approved by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, you and your attorney will need to conduct a patent search. This way, you will be able to determine whether any existing patents reflect similar key elements of your invention. If your idea is truly new and novel, the USPTO will be more likely to approve your request for patent protection.
It is worth noting that even though patent protections generally do not last longer than 20 years, an inventor cannot simply request a new patent for an idea that has received legal protection in the past. This is true even if the time limit associated with a product’s safeguards has run out. Once a product, process or design is no longer subject to patent protection, it becomes part of the public domain and may not be patented by any other individual or business. Any product, process, plant species or design seeking patent protection must be new and novel in some fundamental way.
In order to check whether your invention is fundamentally different from all those that have been patented before, you and your attorney may use a host of different patent search methods. Your attorney will likely begin by undertaking a full-text search of the USPTO database. As the USPTO is the governmental agency that grants patents, its database is a comprehensive tool and is therefore a great place to begin. It is worth noting that this full-text database only dates back to 1976. Patents dating from 1790-1976 are available via image search and through more specific tags like name, patent number and title.
The USPTO is not the only site that offers patent search tools. For example, Google has a free patent database available for research. In addition to being a bit more user friendly, the Google patent database includes all of the information available in the USPTO platform. Some fee-based services also provide patent research options that often feature better tracking associated with the searches you may perform. Depending on how your attorney traditionally conducts patent searches, you may become familiar with platforms like Patent Complete.
Once you and your attorney have conducted a thorough U.S. patent search, it is generally wise to conduct a global patent search as well. The USPTO will likely reject your patent petition if any patent granted anywhere in the world is too similar to your idea.
It is important to understand that you will need to do work beyond a patent search in order to get your idea ready to submit to the USPTO. You will need to provide your patent attorney with as many notes associated with your creative process as possible. Evidence of your research, creative timeline, updates and improvements, diagrams, etc. will help your attorney to protect your work against claims of so-called “prior art.” Your attorney will need as much information as you can provide in order to clearly illustrate that your work is your own and that it was completed at a specific date in time.
Once your creative work and your complete non-provisional patent application are ready to be submitted to the USPTO, you will be granted a filing date. This date is critically important because it is the date that intellectual property evaluators will judge your work against any prior art that may potentially affect your claim. Because this filing date is so critical to both the application process and to the outcome of any future intellectual property litigation related to your work, it is important to get a date as early as is possible. Yes, your application needs to be thoroughly completed or it may be rejected. But it should also be filed as early as possible in order to better ensure that your work receives the protections you seek.
It is worth noting that if you are filing for a utility patent or a plant patent, you may be able to secure provisional application approval in order to obtain a favorable non-provisional filing date up to 365 days before submitting your formal non-provisional application. Please ask your attorney about whether this approach may be right for you and your work.
Patent Search and Application Guidance Is Available
Because it is so critical to secure a favorable application filing date for your work, it is better to speak with an attorney early in the process as opposed to later. That way, as soon as it makes sense to file either a provisional or non-provisional patent application, your file will be ready for submission. If you are interested in obtaining patent safeguards for a new product, plant species, process or design, please consider reaching out to the team at LawTrades today.