The ultimate patent FAQ
We are experts of patents and intellectual properties and we aware that not all of us know for sure what a patent is. We are constantly helping businesses and entrepreneurs to learn more about patents - hence we created our Patent Community which you can join for free.
This post collects the most popular frequently asked questions.
WHAT IS A PATENT?
A patent is a form of idea protection. It allows you to block others from using your idea.
CAN SOFTWARE BE PROTECTED WITH A PATENT?
Yes, mainly in the US, which enables software to receive broad patent protection.
WHY SHOULD I BOTHER? ONLY BIG COMPANIES CAN DEFEND THEIR PATENTS.
Patents can act as a defence as well as a tool for litigation. For that reason – and because a large acquirer can use it in litigation, a patent is also valuable property.
WHAT IS THE LIFETIME FOR A PATENT?
20 years from the date of filing for regular patents.
HOW DO I GET A PATENT?
You prepare and file a patent application, and then undergo examination from the relevant government office (United States Patent and Trademark Office in the US).
WHAT CAN I PROTECT WITH A PATENT?
Anything in a patentable category, such as machines, software, drugs, proteins, etc.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF PATENTS?
Provisional (lasts for only one year), design (protects the way an object looks) and regular or utility patent.
IS IT HARD TO GET A PATENT?
Not at all! You will need to prepare and file a patent application, which can be done in a matter of days to weeks. There are multiple steps after that, each of which can be performed in a straightforward way.
WHAT ARE THE PARTS OF PATENT APPLICATION?
Text and/or drawings that describe your idea. The text should also include claims which relate to details of the idea that you want to protect.
WHAT IS THE PATENT PROCESS?
You’ll prepare and file a patent application, and then go through examination with the relevant government office (United States Patent and Trademark Office in the US).
HOW DO I PREPARE A PATENT APPLICATION?
First we’ll help you do a search to see if you were first to think of the idea. Then, you’ll prepare drawings showing your idea and how it works, as well as text to describe your idea.
HOW DO I FILE A PATENT APPLICATION?
You’ll file electronically through the US Patent and Trademark Office website.
WHAT IS EXAMINATION?
After you file your patent application, an examiner will review it to be certain that it meets the government standards.
WHAT ARE THE GOVERNMENT STANDARDS FOR EXAMINATION?
The patent application must meet formal requirements, and the claims must also be considered novel (original) and non-obvious.
WHAT ARE THE FORMAL REQUIREMENTS?
Formal Requirements relate to size of the pages, font size, thickness of drawing lines, etc.
WHAT ARE CLAIMS?
Claims relate to details of the idea that you want to protect.
WHAT IS NOVEL AND NON-OBVIOUS?
These are terms which describe whether your idea is considered to be truly inventive, or just a “me too”. Only inventive ideas can be patented.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE PATENT APPLICATION IS ALLOWED?
You’ll pay a fee for the patent to be issued; after that, you’ll pay small maintenance fees every 3.5 years, until 20 years from the date of filing of the application (after which the patent expires).
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU ARE THE FIRST TO THINK ABOUT AN IDEA?
As they say, great minds thinks alike! But you’re an entrepreneur. You thrive on having original ideas that no one else has dreamed of. And you want to file a patent, which means you need to be the first one to think of your idea.
WHAT KIND OF PROTECTION CAN I GET FOR MY IDEA BESIDES A PATENT?
Trademark and copyright are the most common types; both allow you to register for protection, which is helpful for enforcement. Other types of protection include trade secrets, but the process is different.
WHAT IS A TRADEMARK?
A trademark protects a name, logo or phrase, but not an idea.
WHAT IS COPYRIGHT?
Copyright protects artistic and creative works, including all printed material, the contents of websites, images, video, music and so forth.