The first step an inventor should take in the patent process is to ask yourself “do I have an idea or do I have an invention?” In asking yourself whether you have an idea or an invention, many first-time inventors are surprised to learn that ideas or concepts alone are not able to receive patent protection from the United States Patent & Trademark Office. Therefore, it is vital that an inventor understand the difference between ideas and inventions (i.e. specific machines, materials or processes that can be patented and protected).
Ideas that only address a problem to be solved without specifically discussing how the machine or method works are considered abstract ideas that are not subject to patent protection. Once an inventor conceives of an idea, the next step is to reduce the invention to practice thereby making the transition to an invention that may be protectable by a patent.
An inventor reduces an idea to practice when the inventor is able to describe “how to make and use” the invention through written description and drawings so that one of ordinary skill in the technical field of the invention would understand how the invention works and would be able to actually practice the invention.
Therefore, before attempting to apply for a patent application, it is important to complete the inventive process to ensure that the subject matter of a potential patent application consists of more than undeveloped ideas.
Once an inventor has determined they have an “invention”, the next step is to complete an invention disclosure worksheet that provides our team at Bay State IP a better understanding of your invention in preparation for an initial evaluation. The invention disclosure worksheet is designed as a series of questions to help an inventor refine their invention to begin thinking in terms of patentability and specifics required for a potential patent application.
Therefore, after the completion of our invention disclosure worksheet, it is time to contact our firm to schedule an initial patent evaluation with a member of our team to begin the process of exploring patent protection for your invention.
An initial patent evaluation will cover a range of topics, including the type of US Patents available for your invention, the process for a drafting a patent application, the examination process and timeline, and what may be done after filing.
During the evaluation, we will also discuss having our firm perform a Patentability Search to determine whether or not your invention or something similar has either been previously patented or applied for a patent by someone. While a patent search is not required by the United States Patent & Trademark Office, it is our recommendation that a search be performed prior to investing the time and funds in drafting an application and proceeding through examination.
Inventors sometimes fall under the false impression that because their invention is not commercially available or sold in a store, then no one else has ever conceived or their invention or something similar. In fact, the United States Patent & Trademark Office alone has granted almost 8 million patents, many of which the products have never been commercialized for a variety of reasons. As such, a patent search helps to avoid a situation where an inventor simply files an application without the benefit of a search, and much to their disappointment, a Patent Examiner subsequently discovers a patent almost identical to their invention.
An inventor should view a patent search as an initial assessment of patentability for their invention, specifically if the search reveals a similar idea, the inventor may weigh the risks associated with moving forward or simply choose to abandon the idea before further time and money is invested.
While there are websites that exist to allow inventors to conduct a patent search on their own, these types of searches are inherently flawed as they rely on keyword searching. Both Patent Attorneys and inventors utilize a variety of different terms to describe their inventions, and as such keyword searching alone runs the risk of missing certain prior art.
A patent search performed by Bay State IP goes beyond merely keyword searching, and identifies both the classification and sub-classification of your invention used by the United States Patent & Trademark Office to review both patents and published patent applications that fall in the same technical field as your proposed invention.