How do I know when to get a patent?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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You should apply for a patent as soon as you have completed the invention. The only requirements for a patent application are the form, fee, and a written explanation of your invention or process. Given that most inventors already create blueprints while making an invention, the final step in the patent process should already be ready for submission. If not, you can submit either a written explanation, graphic images, photographs, or even video footage of your invention at work with your patent application.

Advantages of Filing a Patent Application Early

The advantages of filing immediately are numerous, including a guarantee of exclusive rights to the production of your invention. Patent applications can take up to three months to be accepted, so delaying a patent application too long could also adversely delay production of your product. Additionally, it’s unwise to ever license-out manufacturing rights of your product to others until the patent is safely in hand, this could result in others stealing your design.

For those who prefer to delay, you must file for a patent within one year of the date the invention was in public use or on sale in the United States. Public use includes manufacturing, advertising, sale, and exporting. In other words, once your invention has been made public, you have one year to file. The danger of taking this approach is that your invention has no protection from reverse engineering or outright copying.

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Obstacles to Obtaining a Patent

If the invention has been described in any printed publication anywhere in the world, or if it has been offered for sale anywhere in the United States for more than one year prior to the time an application for the patent has been filed, a patent will not be issued. Even your own use (in certain circumstances) or sale of the invention for more than a year before your patent application is filed will affect your right to a patent. Furthermore, making an invention public before it’s patented will hinder your ability to obtain international patents that require patent acceptance before manufacturing can begin.

If you’re ready to file your patent, you can either submit the form yourself or contact a patent attorney for assistance. For those interested in finding out more about patents and patent applications, log onto the United States Patent and Trademark Office website for a step-by-step guide to the patenting process.

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