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Patent Resources on the Web and in the Engineering Library

This guide directs you to materials that will help search for patent information

The Patent Process

  1. Determine the type of intellectual property you need.  Is it a patent, a trademark, both, or something different?
  2. Determine if your invention is patentable.  Figure out (a) can this type of idea be patented and (b) has this idea already been described in public by someone else.  You need to do a patent search and other types of searches.
  3. Determine what kind of patent you need.  Is it a useful invention ("utility patent"), an ornamental design ("design patent"), or a type of asexually reproduced plant ("plant patent").
  4. Get ready to apply.  Look at the application options provided by the USPTO and determine which ones are right for you.  You may also wish to consult a patent lawyer.
  5. Submit your application.  Submit all of your fees and documents using the USPTO's electronic filing system.  Please note that it may be some time before your application is examined.
  6. Work with your examiner.  If your patent examiner doesn't think your invention is patentable based on the initial application, you can have a conversation with them to amend your submission or to make your case.
  7. Receive your approval.  You get a patent!
  8. Maintain your patent.  You are required to pay maintenance fees to keep your patent active.  These fees are due before the 4th, 8th, and 12th anniversaries of the issue date.

Patent Lawyers

You can represent yourself ("pro se") in the patent process, but it can be helpful to work with a patent lawyer.  Patent lawyers are typically legal professionals with a technical background, and they are skilled at drafting the complex legal language that goes into patent claims.

U.S. Patent Office Search Databases

Specialized Patent Office Databases

Provisional Patent Applications

The USA is a "first to file" country. That means it doesn't matter who invented something first; it matters who submitted their paperwork first.  The USPTO offers a way for inventors to file basic paperwork very quickly, in order to get the earliest possible date.  This is called a provisional patent application.  However, if you submit a provisional application, you must submit the full application within one year.