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How to patent an idea

While it is not technically possible to patent an idea, there are ways to turn your idea into a patentable invention. One requirement for patentability is “reduction to practice” of an invention. This means taking the steps to bring an idea to life for obtaining patent protection. However, you can easily meet this requirement by filing a patent application where your invention is described completely. This means you don’t necessarily have to have a prototype to file for patent protection, though it might be helpful in figuring out how exactly your innovation might work or solve a problem.


There are a few steps to take to obtain and keep patent protection.

1. First, identify your invention and outline the problems that your invention aims to solve.

2. Second, ensure that your invention meets the base criteria for patent protection (i.e., is your invention “patent eligible subject matter” and is your invention potentially “novel” and “nonobvious”?) It is recommended that you contact a patent agent or attorney to help you understand these requirements.

- Third, draft a patent application that discloses your invention. It is highly recommended that you contact a patent agent or patent attorney to help you through this process. While anyone can file a patent application on their own behalf, there are strict requirements for the patent application, and your patent agent or attorney will know the best strategies for gaining patent protection of your invention. This can save a lot of time and trouble down the road if the patent application misses a few of these requirements.

- Fourth, file your application and proceed with patent prosecution. Once your application is filed, your application will be examined to ensure it meets the requirements for patent protection. This process can take years, and it will often include office actions issued by your examiner that will require your response distinguishing your innovation from everything that came before you.

- Fifth, once a patent is granted, continue to pay your maintenance fees. A utility patent lasts for 20 years after the date of filing, but you must pay maintenance fees for continued patent protection. A maintenance fee for utility patents is due at 4 years after grant, 8 years after grant, and 12 years after grant. You will have six months prior to these due dates to pay your fees.

Author: Savanah McLendon.

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