The United States Constitution grants intellectual property rights to inventors; patents protect those rights and encourage innovation. In the United States, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), a division of the Department of Commerce, grants and regulates patents. While attorneys review and help submit most patent applications, individual inventors may choose to self-patent an idea. Though not recommended by the USPTO due to the complexity of the process, self-patenting saves financial resources.
Flesh out your invention idea. Patent applications require specific, detailed information about the invention. Patent examiners do not require a working prototype, but they only view submissions with adequate detail and description as patentable inventions.
Perform a search of existing patents to determine your idea’s originality. The USPTO only allows patents on new, novel and unobvious ideas. Scour the USPTO database, patent databases at public libraries, academic journal databases and technical journal databases to determine the originality of the invention idea.
Create drawings to include in your patent application. Patent applications do not require working prototypes, but do generally require invention schematics. Use engineering software or hire an engineer to create schematics and specifications of the invention idea.
Read several books describing how to patent inventions or ideas. Many inventors find patent applications lengthy, written in “legalese” and difficult to complete. Refer to books by professionals, such as David Pressman’s “Patent It Yourself” or Fred Grissom’s “Inventor’s Notebook: A Patent It Yourself Companion" to gain insights. These books include forms that assist in preparing patent applications.
Write the patent application. Following the guidelines and advice received from publications, complete both sections of the patent application: specifications and claims. Be thorough and read through examples for assistance in writing the patent.
Contact the USPTO’s Inventors Assistance Center (IAC) for answers to questions and assistance in filling out patent application forms. The IAC does not provide legal advice, but does provide general information. Call 800-786-9199 to contact with the IAC.
Submit your patent application online at the USPTO website. The USPTO accepts online submission of patent applications and related documents (including drawings or schematics). Register on the USPTO website and submit the patent application.