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Have a Creation? How to Get a Patent for Your Brilliant Invention

written by: Joli Ballew•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 5/27/2010

Do you have a creation you’re ready to patent? It’ll take a while, but you can do it! This guide takes a look at the process you need to go through in order to get a patent on an invention.

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    Patents for Inventions

    A patent is a set of rights that is granted to an inventor of a unique and never-before-seen product for the purpose of protecting the inventor and the inventor’s product from intellectual property theft. The granting entity of the patent is a branch of that country’s government, and in the case of the United States, that is the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. These rights prevent and exclude others from copying, producing, manufacturing, and/or selling the invention of another person.

    Note: You must apply for and obtain a patent to obtain protection rights under the law.

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    How Do I Get a Patent for My Invention?

    There are several steps to getting a patent. It’s best to hire an attorney to help, although it’s possible to perform a patent search, file the proper papers, and work through the process without one. If you plan to sell the patent to another company, have a third-party help you set up manufacturing, or look for a venture capitalist, you'll definitely need a patent attorney. Most venture capitalists won’t have anything to do with a product unless a licensed patent attorney performed the patent search and can vouch that no similar product exists or was ever created.

    Here’s how to get a patent on an invention:

    1. Decide what type of patent you need. There are three types: Utility, Design, and Plant. Make sure you need a patent and don’t need a trademark or copyright.
    2. Contact a patent attorney. While this is optional, you really need an attorney to perform the patent search and guide you through the patent process.
    3. Contact the patent office and obtain the required paperwork. There are several forms you'll need to fill out. Obtain the forms and read any instructions carefully before filing.
    4. Fill out the paperwork to the best of your ability. It’s better to send too much information than too little. When in doubt, call the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. They are extremely friendly and helpful, and will talk to you for as long as you’d like.
    5. Turn in the required paperwork and pay the filing fee. The fee is expensive, so make sure you’re positive you are serious about obtaining a patent before continuing.
    6. Start using the term Patent Pending whenever you show or market your product. This will let others know you are serious about your product and have filed the proper papers to obtain a patent.Patent pending 
    7. Wait while the patent application process completes. It can take three years or more to obtain the final word on a patent, and get approval for it.