It all begins with an idea. If you think you’ve got a good one, one that a lot of people will benefit from, you’ll probably want to patent it, so the world knows this new thing truly belongs to you. Most people, however, have no idea where to start when it comes to getting a patent for a new product. It can be a long, often complex, process, but it is by no means impossible.

Start by writing down your idea. To get a patent, you’re going to need a detailed description of your product. Detail everything you can think of, no matter how minor. Consider why you created the invention in the first place. It likely solves some kind of problem or removes some kind of inconvenience. What problem does it solve? Who will benefit from it? How does it work? You’ll also need to consider how you’re going to get the money to get started or who you’ll find to manufacture your creation in sufficient quantities.

You’re going to have to learn some patent basics. For instance, if you create something new, you are the only person who can apply for a patent. It absolutely has to be in your name. You can apply for a patent jointly, if you have co-inventors, or as part of a joint research group, but you can’t have someone else do it for you. It’s also going to cost money in various fees, costing about $1,500, so make sure you’ve got the money available before filing.

Not everything can be patented. You can patent machines, or processes, or some kind of manufactured item, including drugs. Whatever it is, it has to provide some kind of use to people in general. If the invention is somehow offensive to public standards of morality, it cannot be patented. Above all, it has to be something new and the inventor needs to detail what makes it new. Ideas that do not have a physical product cannot be patented, nor can anything not created by human ingenuity. Things like literature, music, or art require a copyright, not a patent.

There are basically three types of patent. A utility patent is for a product that has a clearly defined, beneficial use (or uses). This is probably where your invention goes. A utility patent lasts for 20 years, once granted. A design patent is for any innovations regarding a product or process that already exists. These last 14 years from the date of issue. Finally, a plant patent is for securing the rights to a new asexually-reproductive plant. As with utility patents, a plant patent lasts for 20 years.

Once you have the details, the next step is to do a patent search. You can hire experts specifically to help for this task, if you’ve got the money for it, because the patent databases are immense, stretching back all the way to the late 18th century. Depending on your invention, you might even have to look for international patents as well.

While some of the searching can be done on the internet, your best bet is to visit a Patent and Trademark Depository, if you have one in your area. The librarians found there are able to help you search through older patents and ascertain your creation is indeed something new. It’s highly likely you’ll find something similar to whatever you’ve created. The details you’ve established earlier should define the new or enhanced qualities your invention possesses.

Next, it’s time to file an application with the USPTO (U.S. Patent and Trademark Office). You can apply for either a regular patent application (RPA) or a provisional patent application (PPA). The PPA is cheaper, but it only serves as kind of a placeholder for a year. It lets you keep your spot in the line of patent applications, but you’ll have to file a non-provisional application before the year is up, or you lose rights to your provisional application. Provisional applications cannot be filed for design patents.

If you start with a PPA, then file for an RPA, your patent date starts from the time you filed the provisional application. Keep in mind this application is not an application to file an actual patent. At this point, you’ll be able to claim “patent pending” on your creation. The RPA begins the process toward an official patent. You’re going to need to prepare all necessary materials for review by the USPTO for the actual filing. If you get a patent attorney or agent to help you, make sure that person is registered with the USPTO.

Now, you’ll have to wait for the USPTO. Just as you had to search to make sure your patent was unique, the USPTO has to do the same thing. The examiner is going to want details about your product, just as outlined in the first step, so be prepared to offer them.

While your product is going through the review process, you can manufacture and sell it under the “patent pending” label and still have the rights to your invention protected.

No patent is guaranteed, but should it pass examination, you’ll have to pay the approval fees before the actual patent can be granted. After that, you’ll receive your patent and be able to claim exclusive rights to your invention as long as you pay the maintenance fees. These are assessed 3 1/2, 7 1/2, and 11 1/2 years from the date the patent was received. Failure to pay means the patent is no longer valid.

A new invention needs a means to be produced and sold. An idea has to take concrete shape before it can benefit other people. Pivot International can provide what you need to bring your product to life, even if you start with a few scrawled notes on a piece of paper. Request your free consultation today.