How a Utility Patent Protects the Ideas of Inventors
Approximately 90% of all applications submitted to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) are for a utility patent. These applications include everything from machinery to manufacturing methods. Inventors can apply for a patent on a new invention, or as an improvement on an existing product or process. Indeed, the definitions are deliberately broad, which gives inventors considerable latitude to apply for a patent and protect their idea.
The Basics of Filing a Utility Patent
The invention must fall within guidelines established by the USPTO to qualify for a utility patent. This means that the design must be a tool or machine with moving parts, a tool or machine with no moving parts, a process that includes multiple steps, or a compound/mixture of elements such as a pharmaceutical product, glue, etc.
Inventors must submit technical illustrations and detailed descriptions of the invention. It is vital to prepare and review the illustrations and descriptions before submission thoroughly. Even minor errors within the drawings or specifications can result in a rejection of the application.
It can take anywhere from six to 12 months to receive a utility patent through the Track One prioritized examination program. The USPTO has 12,000 prioritized slots for FY 2019, and it can be worthwhile for inventors to consider this option for their invention. It is faster than the typical 22-25 month processing time for standard utility patent applications.
The Costs of a Utility Patent
A utility patent is valid for 20 years. This clock starts ticking from the date that the inventor applies, not from the date of approval. Applicants must pay the required application fees as well as the maintenance fees on the patent. Application fees can be significant, ranging from a few thousand dollars, and potentially into the tens of thousands.
Maintenance fees are due at 3.5 years, 7.5 years, and 11.5 years following the date of the patent. Failing to pay the maintenance fees can result in the loss of the patent. These fees vary depending on the specifics of the patent, and it is essential to make the required patent maintenance payments on time.
Keeping Your Patent Protected
Twenty years can pass in the blink of an eye. When it does, your invention will no longer enjoy the benefits of a utility patent and will be open for anyone to copy. Assuming that patent is still providing protection that is important to you, you’ll need to consider the best approach for maintaining some form of the monopoly that your patent had been providing you. In certain cases, pursuing a second generation patent may make sense. We advise you begin exploring your options far in advance of the existing patent’s expiration date, of course, as quality innovation takes time.
The team at Global Patent Solutions helps inventors protect their ideas so that others don’t scoop them up. Contact us to learn how to use a utility patent to preserve and protect the essence of your invention.