How do I patent my invention?

Federal patent statutes establish a complex regulatory framework that allows inventors to apply for patents, granting them legal rights to protect their inventions. By successfully obtaining a patent issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the patent holder is granted the right to prohibit others from making, using, or selling the invention throughout the United States, as well as the right to prevent others from importing the invention into the United States.

Sarah Walkington is a USPTO registered patent attorney with over 20 years of experience in IP law. Sarah’s practice encompasses assisting clients with two types of patents:

  • Design patents: Generally, a design patent protects the appearance of an invention. More specifically, design patents protect new, original, and ornamental designs for articles of manufacture.
  • Utility patents: Generally, a utility patent protects the structural or functional features of an invention. More specifically, utility patents protect new or improved processes, machines, articles of manufacture, or compositions of matter.

Both types of patents have specific eligibility requirements. For utility patent protection, an invention must be novel, non-obvious, and useful. Novelty means the invention is new and has not been publicly disclosed before. Non-obviousness refers to the invention not being an obvious improvement over existing technology. Usefulness requires that the invention has a practical application and provides some functional benefit. For design patent protection, a design must be novel, original, and ornamental. Novelty means it has not been publicly disclosed prior to the application. Original means it is not a copy of existing designs. Ornamental means the design must have an ornamental or decorative nature, rather than purely functional aspects.

The patent prosecution process involves preparing and filing a patent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office and engaging in correspondence with the USPTO to secure protection for your invention. It is a highly technical and often complicated process, governed by complex laws, regulations, policies, and procedures. Attempting to obtain a patent without assistance from a knowledgeable patent lawyer creates a substantial risk of mistakes or omissions that could cause delay in getting protection for your invention, and could even result in a loss of patent rights altogether.